The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO), which describes itself as a ‘ground-breaking global consumer advocacy network representing over 20 million former smokers worldwide’, is being launched today.
‘The network brings together leading advocacy organisations from over fifteen countries to pursue a set of common objectives,’ the alliance said in a press note.
‘INNCO’s mission is to make it easier for smokers to obtain safer alternatives to cigarettes, which are the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the world.’
“While combustible tobacco is still the most common – and often lethal – way to use nicotine recreationally, that’s changing quickly,” New Zealand spokesperson Nancy Sutthoff was quoted as saying. “Electronic cigarettes and snus offer consumers far safer alternatives to combustible tobacco and unlike conventional nicotine replacement therapy, consumers enjoy them.”
INNCO described electronic cigarettes in particular as a game changer. ‘Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians consider them unlikely to exceed five percent of the risk of combustible cigarettes,’ the alliance said.
‘Among INNCO’s priorities is to demand an end to the prohibition, disproportionate regulation, and punitive taxation of safer nicotine products like e-cigarettes and snus. The network seeks a dialogue with the World Health Organization (WHO) over its opposition to e-cigarettes and other safer ways to use nicotine – an issue which INNCO believes is fuelling a rising tide of resentment towards the UN health agency.
‘INNCO is concerned that the WHO has shown a generally negative response to e-cigarettes since their introduction. Despite the increasing wealth of scientific evidence which supports their unique potential for harm reduction, the WHO tends to ignore the positives and selectively focus on unsubstantiated fears.
‘The WHO seventh Conference of the Parties (CoP7) to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), will take place in Delhi, India next month and INNCO believes it is likely that the organisation will seek to entrench their prohibitionist stance yet further. The CoP7 agenda contains several proposals which, if enacted, would make it even harder for current users or smokers wishing to switch to access e-cigarettes, or use them in public places.
‘INNCO finds the WHO’s refusal to engage with the most important stakeholders concerning. It is consumers who actually use reduced-risk nicotine products, and therefore ignoring them throughout the decision-making process contradicts the UN and WHO advice to engage with affected communities.
‘At previous meetings, the press was dismissed from the proceedings after the opening statements were completed. INNCO worries the WHO has normalized secrecy, with the conference amounting to little more than a biennial lesson on how to avoid transparency.’
INNCO said that it had written to Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of WHO, enclosing its response to the WHO FCTC CoP7 report Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS) and formally requested a meeting to discuss its concerns over increasing disproportionate global regulation.
Judy Gibson, a UK-based, experienced consumer advocate is said to be steering the development of the alliance network. “INNCO intends to be in the vanguard of a global harm reduction revolution,” she said. “We are a conduit for the most influential nicotine consumer advocate organizations across the world but we also represent the disenfranchised; those who face state prosecution simply because they made an informed choice to stop inhaling deadly smoke and switch to something much safer.
“Over 20 million people are estimated to be using safer nicotine products – and INNCO intends to ensure that their voices are heard. ‘Nothing about us without us’ – it’s now time to start talking.”