Scottish Charity ASH Scotland Questions Health Policies, Refuted by UKVIA

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Scottish Charity ASH Scotland Questions Health Policies, Refuted by UKVIA
Scottish charity ASH Scotland expresses concern over two organizations influenced by tobacco companies affecting health policy decisions.

According to TFN.Scot reported on May 21, the Scottish anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland has expressed concerns about two organizations influenced by major tobacco companies being given the opportunity to influence health policies by the Scottish Parliament's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.


ASH Scotland has stated that the involvement of these two organizations in the parliamentary evidence session on May 21 could influence decision-making, which would violate the global health treaty.


The charity believes that the participation of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) and the Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) in the committee's review of the memorandum of understanding on the Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes Act violates Scotland's longstanding adherence to Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The UK is a signatory to the convention, and the Scottish government has been committed to complying with it since 2013.


The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that the interests of the tobacco industry are fundamentally and irreconcilably opposed to the goals of public health. According to Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, once health policies are fully developed, the industry and its vested interests or commercial interests are only allowed to participate to the extent necessary.


ASH Scotland has called on the committee to withdraw the invitations to UKVIA and SGF, noting that the lower house committee will not allow UKVIA to participate in the oral evidence session of the Tobacco and e-Cigarette Bill on April 30th or May 1st.


Since its establishment in 2016, UKVIA's members have included small independent e-cigarette manufacturers and the four major tobacco companies: Japan Tobacco International (JTI), British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International (PMI), and Imperial Tobacco. In May 2023, UKVIA added Japan Tobacco International (JTI), Philip Morris International (PMI), British American Tobacco (BAT), and Imperial Brands as corporate members, along with e-cigarette brands owned by the tobacco industry.


The Chief Executive of ASH Scotland, Sheila Duffy, said:


The failure of the Scottish Parliament Health Committee to follow the guidelines of the World Health Organization is deeply disappointing and sends a troubling signal that our democratic process in developing progressive health policies may be influenced by commercial partners in the tobacco industry. This decision could be exploited by the international tobacco industry to claim legitimacy as a stakeholder in public health interests. Allowing vested interests of profit-driven tobacco companies to participate in committee deliberations undermines Scotland's commitment to eliminating the distortion of public health debates and disrupting or delaying the regulation of harmful health products. This concerns the health and well-being of current and future generations of children growing up in Scotland, especially as World No Tobacco Day approaches on May 31, when the WHO will focus on protecting children from interference by the tobacco industry.


On May 21, UKVIA responded to the accusations made by ASH Scotland on its official website. John Dunne, the CEO, stated that


Before I submitted evidence to the Scottish Parliament committee today, ASH Scotland attempted to disqualify me. Despite e-cigarettes being the most effective method for quitting smoking, ASH Scotland found that their commitment to smoking cessation conflicted to some extent with Sheila Duffy's irrational aversion to e-cigarettes.


The accusations made by ASH Scotland are highly inaccurate and outdated. They are well aware that UKVIA does not have any tobacco companies as members, and any member companies that were previously involved in e-cigarette subsidiaries left in September 2023. UKVIA has not received any funding from the tobacco industry and has publicly stated that they will not be accepting any tobacco companies as members in the future. However, this has not stopped Sheila Duffy from calling on the Scottish government to strictly regulate the e-cigarette industry.


Fortunately, the Scottish government was happy to engage with me today and had many constructive discussions on issues such as e-cigarette packaging and flavors. E-cigarettes may be the most important smoking cessation tool ever, helping millions to break the deadly habit. Scottish ASH should follow the lead of their counterparts in the UK and embrace the benefits of e-cigarettes as the most effective method for quitting smoking.


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