INNCO Governance Documents

The Governing Board

Samrat Chowdhery

Samrat Chowdhery

President

Samrat Chowdhery has been a journalist for two decades with stints in mainline newspapers in India. He is the founder-director of Association of Vapers India (AVI) and is involved in tobacco harm reduction advocacy since 2014, building grassroots resistance to anti-THR policies through consultations with authorities and other stakeholders, identifying and seeding research opportunities, and also by filing legal challenges in a number of Indian states that have prohibited lower-risk tobacco alternatives.

Mr. Chowdhery was honoured with ‘Advocate of the Year’ award at Global Forum for Nicotine (GFN) held in Warsaw in June 2018.

Mr. Chowdhery is currently working on a project that evaluates the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of lower-risk options for bidi smokers and smokeless tobacco users, which involves opening cessation clinics across the country.

Ángeles Muntadas-Prim

Ángeles Muntadas-Prim

Vice president

Ángeles Muntadas-Prim chairs the Spanish Association Supporting Vapers (ANESVAP). ANESVAP was formed in 2014 and is the only association in Spain defending vapers’ rights.

Ms. Muntadas-Prim is co-founder/organiser of the THR Summit Spain (2018), which gathered tobacco harm reduction experts from around the world. She’s also been instrumental in promoting the Tobacco Harm Reduction Platform in Spain (2019) for doctors and scientists and in the creation of AHL Provape, a network of organisations in Latin America focused on vaping and THR.

As ANESVAP’s Chair, she meets with various politicians, doctors, medical associations, and media to advocate for consumers and promote THR. She also attends various events such as the ICO-WHO Symposia, GFN in Warsaw, the European Parliament, and political rallies in order to ensure that consumer interests are represented.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Barcelona University, a Master Degree in Pigmented Ceramics in China and the Islamic World, and a Degree in English Language.

Rob de Lange

Rob de Lange

Secretary

Rob de Lange chairs Acvoda, the Dutch non-profit organisation which supports Harm Reduction alternatives for consumers, since 2018. Acvoda strives to inform consumers on the risks and benefits of Harm Reduction alternatives to smoking, based on unbiased , peer reviewed studies and scientific research.Mr. de Lange holds the view that only truth based factual information can withstand scrutiny and form a formidable defense against inappropriate regulations and non Harm Reduction based Tobacco regulating ideologies.

As Acvoda’s chair, he holds meetings with consumers, scientists, researchers and policy-makers and acts as a liaison for the Dutch e-cigarette trade organisation, as well as writing various media articles on Harm Reduction. With various certifications in IT-security, Mr. de Lange is well equipped to discern facts from fiction.

Ingmar Kurg

Ingmar Kurg

Treasurer

Ingmar, a professional web designer, has been engaged in vaping advocacy since 2015 when he founded the E-cigarette Sellers & Users Union (E-liit) Estonia. He resigned from E-liit in 2018 to establish a purely consumer-based THR advocacy organisation registered under NNA UK guidelines – NNA Suitsuvaba Eesti (NNA Smokefree Estonia).

His experience includes dispatching copious submissions to Parliamentary consultations and taking part in negotiations with various government ministries regarding the regulation of e-cigarettes in Estonia. He has written numerous media articles, appeared on TV/YouTube, and orchestrated a petition obtaining 5,000 signatures triggering a parliamentary enquiry.

Asa Saligputa

Asa Saligputa

Board Member

Asa Saligupta is director and founding member of ENDs Cigarette Smoke Thailand, a consumer group that was founded a few years ago when vaping became illegal, and it aims to legalise THR as an alternative for those who want to quit smoking.

Asa received a Bachelor’s Degree from Assumption University, Thailand and his Master Degree from Avila University, USA. He is a lecturer at Rajabhat University & Chulalongkorn University, and presently, works as Intertrade Manager at Probiotic and Herbal manufacturing company.

Claude Bamberger

Claude Bamberger

Board member

A normal citizen who happened to smoke, like 30-40% of the French population, until he tried a vape by curiosity in 2013 and found it full of potential compared to smoking cigarettes. Improved its experience with, and knowledge of, vaping and “inadvertently” stopped smoking.

He joined Aiduce (French vapers association, partner of French Public Health for the “Mois Sans Tabac” yearly operation, member of AFNOR vaping products standards commission, presiding AFNOR e-liquid certification commission) to defend and inform himself as a consumer, to know if there was, and try to correct, any issues on products quality/security and then defend others like himself against unfounded or inappropriate regulations.
He now helps other people quit smoking in support groups online and sometimes in hospitals with doctors.

Tomás O'Gorman

Tomás O'Gorman

Board member

Tomás O’Gorman – Mexican lawyer and Corporations Law and Successions Law teacher at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City. Ex-smoker and vaper since 2016. Co-founder of “Pro-Vapeo Mexico”, a Mexican consumer association that advocates for tobacco harm reduction and non-combustible alternatives.

The General Secretariat

Charles A. Gardner

Charles A. Gardner

Secretary General/CEO

Charles has over 25 years of experience in global health.  He has had a varied career including “on the Hill” as a staff person working for the US Congress.  Charles has served as a diplomat in India (Health Attaché at the US Embassy), Senior Advisor to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and Director of global health and child health research programs at three major foundations:  The Rockefeller Foundation, the Optimus Foundation and the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.  Charles obtained his PhD in developmental neurobiology from the University of Michigan, and has over 100 publications.  Charles is also a former smoker who lost his father to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  He is a fierce advocate for all options to help smokers quit, and for all ex-smokers who use any safer nicotine alternative to toxic tobacco.

Kim Dabelstein Petersen

Kim Dabelstein Petersen

COO/CFO

Kim Dabelstein Petersen has been the president of the Danish vaping consumer organisation DADAFO since 2014, working to establish collaborations with the various stake holders in public health in Denmark. On the international arena, he has been instrumental in getting a consumer viewpoint represented in the various standardisation efforts through both CEN and ISO. Mr Dabelstein Petersen is now a member of workgroups on both the ISO and CEN efforts to standardise vaping products

Originally the Treasurer for the INNCO Governing board, he transferred to being the INNCO interim Secretary General in 2018, and in 2020 into the position of COO/CFO.

Atakan Erik Befrits

Atakan Erik Befrits

Atakan Erik Befrits is a self-financed Swedish/Turkish tobacco harm reduction advocate, policy researcher, economist and entrepreneur. He serves as the pro bono Chairman of New Nicotine Alliance Sweden and as PR TAC for global umbrella CSO-NGO INNCO.

Mr Befrits ambition is global recognition and adoption of tobacco harm reduction products and strategies as FCTC mandated vital and complementary tools for a greatly accelerated end to smoking (WHO <5%).

COI: Mr Befrits declares no tobacco or vaping industry financial conflicts of interest. Mr Befrits declares non-financial confluence of interests with several product categories, with FCTC 5.3 respecting independence from the producers of such products.

Olivier Théraulaz

Olivier Théraulaz

After 25 years of cigarettes consumption, Olivier Théraulaz stopped smoking within 5 days thanks to
vaping in 2013. This personal experience was his Tobacco Harm Reduction advocacy starting point.
His anterior links with Drug Harm Reduction in Switzerland oriented him into his current advocacy for
a united global harm reduction movement including all dependencies, with or without psychoactive
substances.

Olivier Théraulaz has been the President of the Swiss vapers association, Helvetic Vape, from 2014
to 2019. He participated to the CEN and ISO Technical Committees and Working Groups on vaping
products between 2015 and 2018. He is a GREA (Swiss Addictions Study Group) member since
2016. He was a member of the initial INNCO Steering Group during 2017 and is a member of
INNCO’s Secretariat since the end of 2017.

Judy Gibson

Judy Gibson

Judy Gibson is currently INNCOs Membership Coordinator having led a Steering Group to establish the organisation in 2016 and acted as its first Secretary General following its registration in Geneva in 2017.

Her diverse career includes; WRAF Aircraft Mechanic, Detective Sergeant and over 30yrs in Artiste management and Theatrical PR & Marketing. Suffering early iterations of e-liquid vapourisers since 2012, she became an ex-smoker in 2014 with the advent of sub-ohm tanks and became a vociferous supporter of safer nicotine products.

Janet O'Brien

Janet O'Brien

INNCO Administrator

Janet has strong organisation skills and is deadline orientated. Her 20+ years in international administration within the corporate arena means she is used to keeping calm in high pressure situations and working with conflicting deadlines. She brings structure to a work environment with a relaxed yet professional manner.

Frequently Asked Questions About INNCO

What is INNCO?

Founded in 2016, the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) is a global member association that advocates for tobacco harm reduction and access to, and proportionate regulation of, low-risk alternative nicotine products. INNCO’s role is to enable coordination and cooperation across its organizational network around the world, as well as engage in targeted national- and regional-level projects to help significantly reduce the number of people who die from smoking-related illnesses each year.

What is INNCO’s mission?

INNCO is focused on empowering consumers of low-risk alternative nicotine products through its member organisations, utilizing research, education and advocacy, so they can be actively engaged in the pursuit of tobacco harm reduction worldwide.

What is tobacco harm reduction?

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) is a public health policy that respects individual autonomy, empowers consumers to make safer choices, and offers pragmatic solutions to combating the use of high-risk forms of tobacco. It is an alternative to the “quit or die” mindset prevalent among WHO FCTC and its member governments that impose restrictive regulations and bans on risk-reduced nicotine products in pursuit of unrealistic tobacco elimination goals.

Can anyone join INNCO?

Entities and legal bodies may apply to become members if they are non-profit consumer-controlled organisations focused on tobacco harm reduction. Details on membership requirements can be found on INNCO’s website in Articles 8-12 of Statutes of the Association.

Are there fees for members?

INNCO charges no membership fees or dues and works closely with organisations that align with its mission, aims and values. Member organisations operate independently in their respective countries and work cooperatively with other members, regionally and internationally.

How many members does INNCO have?

Currently, the Association’s membership comprises 35 member organisations in 33 countries.

What are the benefits of membership?

Member organisations have joined together under the INNCO umbrella to amplify their collective voices to achieve risk-relative regulations and access to safer THR products across the world. INNCO facilitates cross-pollination of advocacy ideas and provides expertise and support in helping organisations develop their own agenda and capabilities suited to the country. By connecting to a worldwide network, member organisations can develop both a global outlook and strengthen their local efforts.    

What is the financial relationship between INNCO and its member organizations?

While INNCO funds and engages in specific projects at the national/regional level, we do not provide operational or sustenance funding to our member organizations, all of which are distinct, independent, and autonomous bodies. INNCO’s role is to enable coordination and cooperation across the family of similar organizations around the world, as well as engaging in targeted national- and regional-level projects. INNCO is the collective voice of the most important stakeholders in the tobacco control debate — the consumers. 

Our THR focus is one of the reasons we have struggled to find a source for funding. INNCO does not accept funds from the tobacco or vapor industry, and most private funders in the tobacco control space are hostile towards the concept of tobacco harm reduction. While we could accept funding from consumers, that would put us in direct competition with our member organisations.

What is INNCO’s organisational structure?

INNCO is structured as an international nonprofit, registered in Geneva. The Governing Board oversees INNCO’s affairs and appoints the Secretariat comprising professionals. Major decisions are put to vote in the General Assembly held in June every year. More details can be found in our statues.

How are Governing Board members selected?

Member input is valued, and INNCO’s annual General Assembly provides a platform for members to raise ideas and concerns on the governance and direction of the Association, as well as oversee, nominate, and vote on representatives on its Governing Board. Members also are encouraged to serve on committees and working groups which offer significant input on INNCO’s policies and activities.

Do Governing Board members receive a salary?

No. All board positions are strictly volunteer positions.

Is INNCO linked with the vapour industry?

INNCO represents the consumer voice at the international level, separate and distinct from that of industry. The Association’s goal is to empower consumers to make positive decisions about their own health and protect consumer access to safer alternatives than dangerous forms of tobacco. INNCO receives no funding from the vapour or tobacco industry.

How is INNCO funded?

INNCO was established in 2016, well before seeking funding from our current funder, the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (the Foundation). The Foundation is at present funded with a 12-year-no-strings-attached grant from Philip Morris International (PMI). Our grant from the Foundation is equally arms-length, to be used to fund work decided by our own independent Governing Board and General Assembly of full members, while overseen by its auditors and other internal working groups.

Isn’t taking a grant from the Foundation the same as being funded by a tobacco company?

No. Under its Bylaws and Pledge Agreement with PMI, the Foundation operates independently from PMI and the tobacco industry. The Foundation’s Bylaws also contain a robust conflict of interest policy. Derek Yach, the President of the Foundation, was a cabinet director and executive director for non-communicable diseases and mental health at the WHO, during which time he was closely involved with the creation of the FCTC.

INNCO requested a grant from the Foundation to strengthen and build capacity, which was approved by the Foundation’s Board. Accountability in any type of grant relationship is critical, and we report to the Foundation during the course of the grant to confirm that funds are being spent in accordance with the plan and budget that was approved.. 

We understand why people may be initially sceptical, but the fact is that INNCO has nothing to do with PMI, and PMI has absolutely no control over INNCO and absolutely no input over INNCO’s projects and activities. INNCO represents the consumer voice at the international level, and our voice is separate and distinct from that of industry. Our ultimate goal is to empower consumers to make positive decisions about their own health and protect consumer access to safer alternatives to dangerous forms of tobacco.

Unfortunately, it is common in the THR and anti-smoking space for people to be accused of working with tobacco companies or to be presented as somehow “tainted”. This is a strategy intended to shut down discussion, nothing more. We appreciate the Foundation’s support. We share many of the same goals, and our visions for the future of nicotine consumption strongly overlap. 

Does INNCO provide grants to other organizations?

INNCO funds and engages in specific projects that align with its mission of promoting tobacco harm reduction.

Does INNCO make submissions to governments?

Yes. INNCO’s support and structure provides a powerful voice for consumers on THR issues. INNCO regularly submits responses to national governments on legislative and regulatory efforts impacting access to low-risk nicotine products. 

What is INNCO’s relationship with WHO and the FCTC?

The voices of 1.3 billion people around the world are being ignored, although it is their lives and futures under discussion. Consumers are entitled to a seat at the table and must have a say in discussions directly involving and impacting them. INNCO’s application for observer status to the FCTC COP8 in Geneva was denied, though no specific reason was provided. INNCO was accorded observer status for the UN NCD conference the same year. INNCO continues its work in the field of THR consumer advocacy, engaging as an independent entity with various stakeholders, including UN bodies, governments and state departments, nonprofits as well as the private sector.