The planned meeting on the Tobacco Convention, COP10, in Panama City has been cancelled. The WHO Tobacco Control Secretariat announced this on its website. The reason is riots in the host country Panama.
"Due to the unrest, the authorities cannot guarantee the safety of the delegates. We will therefore postpone the conference to a later date in early 2024." announces the WHO.
The unrest in Panama began after the conflict over a copper mine rocked the country. Demonstrations in the capital degenerated on Wednesday and two people are reported to have been killed. Police have also used tear gas to disperse the crowds.
According to Swedish authorities, the Panamanian government expects the unrest to continue for several weeks. For delegates from 180 countries who are travelling to Panama to attend COP10, the tenth meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO). Tobacco Conventionthis means changes to the plans. The meeting was to take place at the end of November, but is now postponed.
"The meeting is still scheduled to take place in Panama in early 2024, but we will come back with more details as soon as possible," writes WHO on its website.
WHO plans for e-cigs and nicotine pouches
Although the meeting on the Tobacco Convention, also known as COP10, has not received much public media attention, there has been a lot of interest from the public. activists, researchers and businesses which advocates harm minimisation in tobacco policy.
The reason is that the WHO Secretariat for Tobacco Control is preparing changes to the content of the Convention that may affect access to, among other things e-cigarettes, snus and nicotine pouches. Critics say this could favour the global cigarette trade.
"The WHO Secretariat for Tobacco Control has never acknowledged that harm minimisation for smokers is a viable strategy for reducing the harms of nicotine use. On the contrary, they have had a very hostile attitude towards new nicotine products such as e-cigarettes, nicotine pouches, but also the Swedish snus" says the writer and harm reduction activist. Martin Culip in an interview about the upcoming COP10 meeting to Regulator Watch media channel
Encouraging users to get involved
During the spring and summer, he has been urging vejpers and other users of smokeless nicotine products to put pressure on their local politicians on the issue of harm reduction and COP10.
"Delegates are often civil servants who work according to the directives they receive from their governments. It is important that the directive takes us consumers into account, because we are the ones who are affected by the decisions on the content of the Tobacco Convention," says Martin Culip.
"Want to change the definition of smoke"
According to the reports that WHO Secretariat for Tobacco Control published so far, both as discussion documents and direct proposals for the meeting, it is clear that new nicotine products are the focus. More than cigarettes. And these are very serious measures, says Martin Culip.
"The idea is that e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products, and indeed also snus and nicotine pouches, should by definition be placed in the same compartment as cigarettes - and thus regulated in exactly the same way. One proposal is to redefine what "smoke" is. The convention should really only be about smoking tobacco; that was the case when the convention was ratified by 180 countries. Now they want to redefine the terms in the strangest ways to avoid rewriting the Convention: anything that looks like smoke should be smoke, even if it is vapour from an e-cigarette. And that's the end of the problem", says Martib Culip ironically.
Doctors, researchers studying nicotine addiction and politicians have also reacted to the reports published by the WHO in the run-up to the Panama meeting, as Vejpkollen has noted. in several articles.
This is not the first time the WHO Tobacco Control Secretariat has had to cancel its conferences. The last time this happened was during the COVID-19 pandemic, when COP9 was to be organised in Geneva. It ended up being a virtual meeting where delegates had to settle for discussions over a link. Due to the difficulties, the Tobacco Control Secretariat postponed the burning issues of new tobacco control programmes. the future of nicotine products. It is now envisaged that these products will be discussed and decided upon during COP10.
Swedish delegation finalised
Sweden will send a five-person delegation from the Ministry of Social Affairs to COP10. The delegation will represent Sweden while many issues will be handled by a common EU line.
"An important starting point for the government is to protect the exception in EU law that allows snus to be sold on the Swedish market. Nicotine portions are not currently covered by EU legislation. As regards the decision-making procedure in the Council, the Government considers that consensus should be applied when it is permitted under EU law," writes the Minister for Social Affairs. Jacob Forssmed comments on the Swedish delegation's mission in Panama.
At the time of writing, the WHO Tobacco Control Secretariat has not announced a new date for the meeting.