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Experts urge WHO to back Tobacco Harm-Reduction Strategies at the Seventh Conference of the Parties

Government policies seek to remove barriers to the availability of better, safer, non-combustible nicotine delivery products

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A cigarette on an ashtray. Wikimedia
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November 7,2016: The seventh Conference of the Parties (CoP7) of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) — the world’s first public health treaty — kicked off here Monday with a coalition of experts seeking a focus on policy for new nicotine products like e-cigarettes.

The FCTC entered into force in 2005 and establishes requirements and recommendations for reducing demand-supply of tobacco products to reduce preventable diseases and premature death caused by tobacco use. As many as 180 countries are now parties to the convention.

Ahead of the conference, a coalition of top tobacco harm-reduction experts warned that “one in two life-long smokers will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease”.

The coalition, established to provide balanced, evidence-based information on harm reduction, observed that “if current smoking patterns and trends continue, a billion people might die from smoking-related diseases in the 21st century”.

“Despite the availability of smoking-cessation medications, many smokers do not want to try them. Of those who use them, the majority either fail or relapse within a year,” the coalition pointed out in a Mission Statement.

It explains how “public health experts have recommended that smokers be encouraged… to switch completely to less harmful substitutes”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified harm-reduction strategies as a core principle of tobacco control, and recently stated: “If the great majority of tobacco smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit would switch… to using an alternative source of nicotine with lower health risks… this would represent a significant contemporary public health benefit.”

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According to the Mission Statement, there are new technologies that comply with this principle. One such is the “electronic cigarette” — or, as WHO calls it, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, ENDS — which delivers nicotine without burning tobacco. The vapor from e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers contains very low levels of potentially-harmful chemicals”.

According to the experts, Public Health England recently concluded vaping is at least 95 per cent safer than smoking and acknowledged that e-cigarettes can be an effective aid to quitting smoking.

The experts said they support “government policies that seek to remove barriers to the availability of better, safer, non-combustible nicotine delivery products, with appropriate quality standards and regulations”.

They added that disproportionate restrictions — regulation of e-cigarettes as medical products, restrictions similar to tobacco cigarettes, advertising bans — will make such products expensive and create misconceptions that they are as harmful as smoking.

The coalition called such measures “counter-productive”.

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The Tobacco Harm Reduction Expert Group includes Konstantinos E. Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens; Prof. Riccardo Polosa of the Institute for Internal and Emergency Medicine, University of Catania; Christopher Russell of the Centre for Substance Use Research, Glasgow; Amir Ullah Khan, member of the Telangana government’s Commission of Inquiry on Socioeconomic Conditions; Julian Morris, Vice President of Research at Reason Foundation; and Prof. Rajesh N. Sharan of the Department of Biochemistry, North-Eastern Hill University. (IANS)

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Eat Less Saturated, Trans Fats to Curb Heart Disease: WHO

An active adult needs about 2,500 calories per day, Branca said

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The World Health Organization said Friday that adults and children should limit their intake of saturated fat — found in foods such a meat — and trans fat — found in foods such as french fries.
The World Health Organization said Friday that adults and children should limit their intake of saturated fat — found in foods such a meat — and trans fat — found in foods such as french fries. The World Health Organization said Friday that adults and children should limit their intake of saturated fat — found in foods such a meat — and trans fat — found in foods such as french fries. VOA

Adults and children should consume a maximum of 10 percent of their daily calories in the form of saturated fat such as meat and butter and one percent from trans fats to reduce the risk of heart disease, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The draft recommendations, the first since 2002, are aimed at reducing non-communicable diseases, led by cardiovascular diseases, blamed for 72 percent of the 54.7 million estimated deaths worldwide every year, many before the age of 70.

“Dietary saturated fatty acids and trans-fatty acids are of particular concern because high levels of intake are correlated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, told reporters.

The dietary recommendations are based on scientific evidence developed in the last 15 years, he added.

The United Nations agency has invited public comments until June 1 on the recommendations, which it expects to finalize by year-end.

Junk food.
Junk food. Pixabay

Saturated fat is found in foods from animal sources such as butter, cow’s milk, meat, salmon and egg yolks, and in some plant-derived products such as chocolate, cocoa butter, coconut, palm and palm kernel oils.

An active adult needs about 2,500 calories per day, Branca said.

“So we are talking about 250 calories coming from saturated fat and that is approximately a bit less than 30 grams of saturated fat,” he said.

That amount of fat could be found in 50 grams (1.76 oz) of butter, 130-150 grams of cheese with 30 percent fat, a liter of full fat milk, or 50 grams of palm oil, he said.

Trans fats

Trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products. But the predominant source is industrially-produced and contained in baked and fried foods such as fries and doughnuts, snacks, and partially hydrogenated cooking oils and fats often used by restaurants and street vendors.

In explicit new advice, WHO said that excessive amounts of saturated fat and trans fat should be replaced by polyunsaturated fats, such as fish, canola and olive oils.

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“Reduced intake of saturated fatty acids have been associated with a significant reduction in risk of coronary heart disease when replaced with polyunsaturated fatty acids or carbohydrates from whole grains,” it said.

Total fat consumption should not exceed 30 percent of total energy intake to avoid unhealthy weight gain, it added.

The recommendations complement other WHO guidelines including limiting intake of free sugars and sodium. (VOA)