Global Advocacy Organisation Stresses Need for Consumer Access to Tobacco Harm Reduction Products
HANOI, Vietnam, Jan. 27, 2021 — The International Network of Nicotine Consumers Organisations (INNCO) is urging the Vietnamese government to exercise “true independence” in its regulation of tobacco harm reduction (THR) products, warning that failure to adopt evidence-based guidelines will lead to substandard products and economic development losses.
“We understand that the government wants to improve regulatory compliance to reduce harm from smoking, but it also needs to understand its stakeholders in order to formulate an effective regulatory design,” said Samrat Chowdhery, president of INNCO’s governing board in a letter to Vietnam’s Ministry of Health. “We believe it is problematic if the entity drafting regulations does not have a solid, evidence-based understanding of the THR issue.”
INNCO’s concerns stem from the possibility that regulations will be drafted by the Vietnam Tobacco Control Fund, a long-time grantee of The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), a Bloomberg Philanthropies-funded organization that has repeatedly called for worldwide bans on all electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and other THR products in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
“The issue with having a regulation drafted by this entity [The Union] is that it will always be biased,” added Chowdhery, and pointed to similar co-opting of tobacco policies in other Asian nations.
“In the Philippines, legislators have questioned the conflict of interest in their Food and Drug Administration after confirming that it receives funds from Bloomberg Philanthropies and The Union, while pushing for an anti-vaping policy. In India, the new tobacco law has been drafted by a Bloomberg-funded group, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,” he said.
“INNCO speaks for the consumers from Vietnam who are silent on this issue for fear that their civil liberties will be compromised,” said Chowdhery. “It is vital that the government exercise true independence and allow consumers to be part of the regulatory framework.”
The International Network of Nicotine Consumers Organization (INNCO) is a global non-profit organization with more than 30-member consumer groups, representing the interests of consumers across six continents in the call for rights-based, risk-relative and balanced tobacco harm reduction policies as a legitimate human right. In connection with tobacco use, harm reduction in its most basic form embraces a range of policies, regulations and actions that reduce health risks by providing safer replacements for high-risk products and/or by encouraging less risky behavior.