What image springs to mind when you hear the term ‘influencer’? Do you think of blown-out footage of a photogenic 20-something marketing a ‘lifestyle’ for clicks, likes, and shares? Sadly, influencing on a global political scale goes much deeper and darker than this. In developing countries and low-income nations, organizations influence public health policy, using vast sums of cold hard cash as an incentive. Why is this so bad? Well, you are about to find out…
Cash for Policy: How it Works
Lobbying has always existed in the formation of policy. Interest representation is not a new thing.
So, what’s the problem?
Often, cash rules over common sense. This is especially worrying when the health of individuals is put at risk. When discussing health, the primary concern should be obvious. However, huge corporations and campaigns use finance, not facts, to leverage others to implement policies.
According to a report by Michelle Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, there is a vast amount of overreach in developing nations. Organizations, such as the Bloomberg-backed Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK), push ‘a wish list’ of policy measures in developing nations.
Using financial incentives, they are gaining huge governmental influence. Often, the sums of money involved will far exceed the standard salaries of the individuals involved, or in many cases, will bolster departmental budgets of developing nations well above what is considered ‘normal’.
A bolstered health budget? That’s a good thing, right?
Remember, those pushing policy onto poorer countries are not elected. The policy neither reflects the will of the people nor what is actually ‘healthiest’. Interest groups like CTFK create a niche as an ‘authority’ and use ‘influenced’ nations to prove success. Easy to do when you have a $360 million backing.
While at first glance, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids seems noble, dare we say, admirable, the policies being so vehemently pushed don’t agree with real-world data.
How CTFK Gets it Wrong
Even the most perfunctory glance at the CTFK website demonstrates the ‘cart before the horse’ approach. Particularly when it comes to vaping. Here are some statements made by CTFK…
“Quitting tobacco is challenging”…
Even more so when there is a policy push by CTFK to limit the sale of alternative nicotine delivery systems that have been proven to be much safer.
“The introduction of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) in countries around the world poses new challenges to governments and advocates dedicated to protecting youth and reducing tobacco use”…
A recent update to a UK study (published by the UK health service) states, quite unequivocally, that vaping is the most effective way to quit smoking.
“Government policymakers and regulatory agencies around the world must take e-cigarettes seriously due to their potential impacts on youth and their ability to reverse or hinder national health goals.”
An interesting take… As stated in the early stages of this article… The primary concern of public health should be public health. To claim that vaping is reversing ‘smoke-free’ efforts is disingenuous.
Let’s take a look at Canada, which aims to reduce habitual smoking to 5% of the population. A worthy and admirable goal, certainly.
Health Canada has admitted that restrictive vape policies could increase smoking. In fact, this report even includes the statement: –
“It is anticipated that some dual users who currently use flavored vaping products would not substitute their purchases with tobacco- and mint/menthol-flavored vaping products… They would choose to purchase more cigarettes.”
Vaping isn’t causing a reversal… The anti-vaping policy is doing more harm than good.
In the interest of public health? Not really.
Reasons Why ‘Lobbying’ is Harmful to Health
Philanthropic virtue-signaling may leave certain advocates feeling warm and fuzzy, but when policies ‘suggested’ by rich donors with specific interests threaten the very thing they claim to protect, one has to question how genuine an achievement it really is.
Here are some things to consider…
Developing Countries Need Safer Alternatives to Smoking
Take India as a prime example. On World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization recently awarded Harsh Vardan for banning smoking cessation devices.
Vaping doesn’t contain tobacco.
Considering the percentage of smokers in each nation, developing nations and those with poorer incomes all approach the higher levels. Standout cases such as Indonesia top the list with over 70% smoking uptake.
Surely any technology that reduces this number is a good thing?
ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) states that 80% of smokers live in low and middle-income countries. This is further backed up by the World Health Organization. Their factsheet also reports that “smoking has been shown to reinforce wealth inequality and poverty”.
In light of the above, limiting the options available to quit due to lobbying and enforcement of policy at the government level is hardly ‘humanitarian’.
Vaping is 95% Safer than Smoking
Associating vaping with ‘smoking’ is misguided and incorrect. The only similarity between the two is that they both contain nicotine… Just like ‘approved’ nicotine replacement therapies.
Unlike smoking, vaping doesn’t burn anything. It delivers nicotine using an aerosolized vapor (hence the name). It is the combustion of tobacco that causes the release of carcinogens and toxic elements.
Other Public Health Bodies Recommend Vaping
A report by the Royal College of Physicians actively encourages the promotion of E-Cigarettes as an effective alternative to smoking. Interestingly, the report makes several other statements, all of which are almost the opposite of endorsing ‘vape bans’, such as those hysterically demanded by ‘philanthropic’ lobby groups.
Here are some points in brief quoted directly: –
- “E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking.”
- “E-cigarettes do not result in normalization of smoking.”
- “E-cigarettes and quitting smoking – among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened, and in a proportion of these to successful cessation. In this way, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway from smoking.”
The harms of smoking significantly exceed the harms of vaping. The enforcement of poorly researched and contrary measures, while claiming it will reduce harm from smoking, is disingenuous, irresponsible, and far from public health interests.
‘Following the money’, one can observe that certain organizations are overreaching and becoming undemocratic policy creators, often in areas that desperately need to reduce the uptake of smoking. Lumping smoking and vaping together and applying blanket restrictions could have sometimes been shown to increase the very thing that it claims to prevent.