The Convention Secretariat calls Parties to remain vigilant towards novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products

The emergence in the global market of novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products has been discussed by the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) since its third session (COP3) in 2008. The successive COPs have seen and discussed a series of technical reports, including those developed by WHO, and adopted a number of decisions that have the potential to guide Parties’ actions towards establishment of a regulatory framework for novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products and for monitoring their presence in the market.

According to the terminology used in reports submitted to the COP, the leading novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products can be classified in three broad categories: electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)[1] , electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs). Allowing such products to penetrate national markets without regulating them could threaten implementation of tobacco control strategies, as well as could undermine the denormalization of tobacco use upheld by the Convention.

The COP has recommended that these products’ health claims should be prohibited until they are scientifically proven. COP6 invited Parties to take measures in relation to ENDS/ENNDS and to consider prohibiting or otherwise regulating them, including as tobacco products, medicinal products, consumer products, or other categories, as appropriate[2]. Furthermore, COP7 invited Parties to apply regulatory measures to prohibit or restrict the manufacture, importation, distribution, presentation, sale and use of ENDS/ENNDS, including those referred to by WHO[3] , as appropriate. At COP8, HTPs were recognized as tobacco products, subject to all relevant provisions of the WHO FCTC and to the relevant domestic legislation and controls.

In the 2018 Global Progress Report on Implementation of the WHO FCTC, based on mandatory reports submitted biannually by all Parties, an increasing number of countries indicated the arrival of new and emerging nicotine and tobacco products on their markets, often outside of a domestic legal or regulatory framework. According to data from the 2018 WHO FCTC reporting cycle, 102 out of 181 Parties reported having ENDS on their markets but only 63 of those regulate ENDS. Those that regulate ENDS, include them in categories such as tobacco products; products imitating tobacco; medicinal products; pharmaceutical products; consumer products; poisons or ENDS as a new product category. This shows that from a regulatory and enforcement point-of-view these products represent a growing challenge for the Parties. Further, in many countries, illicit trade of novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products have been reported.

These products are creating another layer of interference by the tobacco industry and related industries, which is still reported by Parties as the most serious barrier to progress in implementing the WHO FCTC.

According to Dr. Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat “the threats of these novel products to human health are seriously looming in the horizon, flooding our streets and shops. The public health community and authorities have to be vigilant in countering the aggressive tactics by the industry to market its products to youth, cleverly using the loopholes of existing legislations. Moreover, the history of the harms of use of tobacco and tobacco-like products should not be allowed to be rewritten based on unproven and misleading claims. Vaping is a treacherous and flavored camouflage of a health disaster yet to happen if no action is taken now’’.

On the same topic, Professor Ghazi Zaatari, Director of the Convention Secretariat-Knowledge Hub on Waterpipe Tobacco Products and Chair of the WHO Study Group on Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) said that “these products, recently introduced into the global markets, are far from being harmless. The notion of harm reduction is a trap by the tobacco industry trying to perpetuate nicotine addiction’’.

In the WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2019[4] it is recognized that in recent years the tobacco industry has introduced a wide array of new products, the majority of which simulate the act of smoking while typically delivering nicotine into the human body. The amount of delivered nicotine can exceed those emitted by smoking traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes, waterpipe and smokeless tobacco. It reiterated that these products are marketed as cleaner alternatives to conventional cigarettes, as smoking cessation aids, or as “reduced risk” products. According to WHO, there are several unknown factors associated with their use, which means they cannot be safely recommended for consumption. Moreover, it noted that these products have the potential to undermine existing tobacco control measures by, for instance, exempting these products from taxation or by allowing their use in smoke-free places.

The WHO report also highlights the proliferation of these new products in many markets around the globe, and the alarming rate at which their use is growing among youth, being considered by some as an epidemic among youth. A key strategy used by the tobacco industry to hook young consumers is to mask tobacco smoke harshness with flavours, contributing to the promotion and sustained use of tobacco. In this regard, Parties are recommended by the Partial Guidelines for Implementation of Articles 9 and 10 to regulate, by prohibiting or restricting, ingredients that may be used to increase palatability in tobacco products.

The Convention Secretariat concurs with the observations and recommendations of the latest WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic and is working together with WHO, in compliance with its mandate given at COP8, on various product regulation areas including classification, health impacts, and attractiveness of novel and emerging tobacco products.

Further, aware of the importance of the need to prohibit or regulate these products, the Convention Secretariat issued an Information Note on the classification of novel and emerging tobacco products that compiles all COP decisions related to these products, as well as the ongoing process for the amendment of harmonized customs codes concerning tobacco and nicotine products at the World Customs Organization (WCO).

The Convention Secretariat supports the promotion of cessation of tobacco use and the delivery of proven treatments for tobacco dependence, which remains an obligation to all WHO FCTC Parties under Article 14 of the WHO FCTC and its implementation Guidelines.

The Convention Secretariat reminds Parties that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests and this serves as the foundation of Parties’ actions in accordance with Article 5.3 of the Convention and its guidelines. Tobacco companies include new products in their marketing and lobbying strategies[5] . To counter them, the Conference of the Parties, in its decision FCTC/COP8(22), reminds Parties about their commitments under the WHO FCTC when addressing the challenges posed by novel and emerging tobacco products and consider prioritizing, among other measures, to protect tobacco-control policies and activities from all commercial and other vested interests related to novel and emerging tobacco products, including interests of the tobacco industry, in accordance with Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC. Furthermore, in the same decision, Parties are reminded to apply measures regarding advertising, promotion and sponsorship of novel and emerging tobacco products in accordance with Article 13 of the WHO FCTC.

The Convention Secretariat calls on Parties to act now in accordance with the decision FCTC/COP8(22) : Novel and emerging tobacco products and save the next generation from another epidemic.

1. These are sometimes commonly referred to as e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, etc.
2. FCTC/COP6(9), Electronic nicotine delivery systems and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems, 2014
3. FCTC/COP/7/11, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS). Report by WHO, 2016
4. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic 2019
5. Dangers of the “Unsmoke” Campaign: Frequently Asked Questions

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