A full and frank international panel discussion revealed public attacks on Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) advocates are increasingly personal, derogatory and defamatory.
‘Headlined ‘the battle between innovation and bully tactics’, the seventh episode of The Advocates Voice (TAV 7) featured public health expert Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos as one of the panelists.
Hosted by Asia Pacific’s CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) the 11 July discussion is available to view on https://youtu.be/l3HH_qzs-08
Moderated by CAPHRA’s Nancy Loucas, TAV 7 included public relations expert and Medical Observer publisher, Jena Fetalino, Managing Director of JFPRC, Philippines. She believed the abuse levelled at THR advocates and the industry reflected just one thing.
“It shows that anti-vaping groups are now running out of arguments to justify their case and resort to defamation to demonize the vaping industry, the nicotine consumers, THR advocates, and THR in general,” said Ms Fetalino, former publisher of Medical Observer.
She encouraged THR advocates not to be silent but to confront ‘fake news’ head on: “They should be direct, straight forward and simple in their response, so that people will understand the issue, no matter how complex it may be.”
“Even if the attackers choose to focus on hitting below the belt, we should remain calm and present facts to inform and not to insult… We should be patient enough to clarify the issue by presenting our side, deny inaccurate information and rectify the error. We should be armed with facts and evidence. In the end, the readers will discern what is true,” she said.
Ms Fetalino said instead of smokers, vapers and THR being demonized, the better story is who prevents smokers from changing, who prevents the tobacco industry from trying to become better, and who wants to block less harmful alternatives.
She was optimistic that opinions on THR will change over time, as ultimately science is on the side of THR.
Mirza Abeer, Director of Association for Smoking Alternatives in Pakistan, said a new wave of attacks is now being seen.
He described it as a natural progression. “Once THR opponents could no longer attack the science, they would target advocates and consumers. Such attacks must be met with fact-based arguments to break holes in their stories and show you’re not a soft target,” he said.
Asa Saligupta, Director of ENDs Cigarette Smoke Thailand, described it as fighting an uphill battle that would further escalate, but one in which consumers must stick together.
“If everyone thinks, ‘why bother it’s going to be too difficult’, then nothing’s going to happen…Then again, I look at my health, I came back from quitting smoking and turned to vaping. I look at my friends especially my sons… they quit smoking by vaping… Without Tobacco Harm Reduction, that would not be possible. They have thrived,” said Mr Saligupta.
Concluding the TAV 7 discussion, Dr Farsalinos said: ‘We need to be patient. We need to be consistent with our principals, with ethics of course, and we should not succumb to extortion. That’s my message.”
Consumer groups in the Asia Pacific region have also launched a petition at change.org/v4v-petition that urges the World Health Organisation (WHO) to respect consumer rights and to stop demonizing Tobacco Harm Reduction options ahead of the next biennial meeting of the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in November.
For a free digital media repository on tobacco harm reduction in Asia Pacific – including media releases, images and graphics – please visit https://apthrmedia.org
The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Advocates (CAPHRA) is a regional alliance of consumer tobacco harm reduction advocacy organizations. Its mission is to educate, advocate and represent the right of adult alternative nicotine consumers to access and use of products that reduce harm from tobacco use.