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Transparency was on the agenda at COP7, apparently there were concerns after COP6, but (almost) unbelievably, what they achieved was to make it less transparent than ever before.

Prior to COP7 I asked the UK department of health what the problem was with allowing the media and the public, including the tobacco companies, to observe (not participate) and report on the negotiations that go on there. The answer was that the tobacco companies would target and intimidate those delegations with whom they disagree, and go on to interfere in tobacco control policy in those countries. The public and media had to be similarly excluded because the tobacco companies would infiltrate them, or go disguised as them. Paranoid stuff.

I don't think it's a secret that the tobacco industry had numerous representatives in Delhi, as did other independent interested parties such as Asian vaper groups, and even experts on tobacco harm reduction who were there to try to correct the appalling claims made in the WHO report on e-cigarettes. On the first day of COP all of these people were excluded, together with the scant media representation.

The result of this decision was that all independent reporting of the machinations of COP was blocked, but more importantly, so was scrutiny of the actions of the delegates involved. This gave them free rein to attempt to bring in draconian restrictions on harm reduced products with no fear of being challenged by anyone outside of the hallowed halls of WHO.

Well it would have, if it weren't for the numerous leaks that emanated from the process and filtered through to the excluded groups milling around outside.

FCTC is a treaty which the signatories agree to pass into national law. Those present at COP meetings are deciding law in 180 countries. They are deciding the fate of millions of people like me, who smoke or vape and they're doing it on our taxes. And yet the only route of communication we have with the process is via a confusing myriad of snippets occasionally leaked. The idea that the policy positions of the numerous party delegations should be kept secret for fear of intimidation is absurd and undemocratic. These are national government positions for heavens sake. As I write this I still don't know what the official decision on vaping actually is, although rumour has it that the UK position of blocking any new lunacy has prevailed. Who knows. The situation is beyond disgusting and cannot be allowed to carry on.

COP8 will be held in Geneva in 2018, which is a comparatively short journey for the millions of vapers in Europe. I hope to see a large number of them there. If they will not open the doors to us voluntarily we will just have to do whatever we can to force them. Bring it on.


Sarah Jakes