Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pressure on Norway from the World No-Tobacco Organization

The World Health Organization is the United Nations’ health authority. Although WHO has very little presence or direct influence on American health issues, its positions and policies are of considerable significance in other countries. Wielding its influence, WHO has attempted to impose an unnecessary tobacco policy on Norway.

WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) is blatantly prohibitionist. Each year, TFI sponsors “World No Tobacco Day” on May 31, and its 2006 celebration was especially memorable. That year, the theme was “Deadly in Any Form or Disguise,” (read about it here) and the message was simple: “Cigarettes, pipes, bidies, kreteks, clove cigarettes, snus, snuff, smokeless, cigars… they are all deadly.” Tobacco prohibitionists throughout the world sing from the same songbook.

As I wrote in a post last year, snus is available in Norway, and there is evidence that it has had a substantial positive effect on smoking among men. Apparently TFI is not happy; on May 5, its coordinator told the Norwegian government that TFI wants graphic warnings on snus boxes (translated article here).

The response from the Norwegian health ministry was entirely sensible. Secretary Roger Ingebrigtsen, rejecting TFI’s demand, stated “that scientists long have agreed [upon] and documented the harmful effects of cigarettes and rolling tobacco… but the consensus and the documentation is not as unambiguous” for the use of snus (translated link here).

The government of Norway should be commended for putting the health of its smokers ahead of a misdirected and counterproductive WHO campaign against safer cigarette substitutes.

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