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A senior Conservative MP has warned Rishi Sunak that he will undo the gains of Brexit if he hands over public health powers to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Windsor MP Adam Afriyie raised concerns about the attempted power grab by the WHO at the COP10 conference on tobacco in Panama in November.
WHO officials are asking national governments to hand over public health powers to them to control policy on e-cigarettes and vaping worldwide.
It comes as the same unelected officials at the WHO led by its director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus are also demanding that governments give them powers to impose worldwide rules for future pandemics.
Mr Afriyie warned that Britain had not gone through Brexit to escape the unaccountable power of the EU “only to hand control to the WHO.”
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The Tory MP spoke to Express.co.uk at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum annual gathering in Seoul South Korea where public health experts join representatives from the tobacco industry to try to reduce smoking harm and promote safer alternatives such as vaping.
Mr Afriyie is concerned that the WHO takes the opposite approach to the world-leading one forged by the UK.
While British policy is to reduce smoking harm by moving people on to e-cigarettes and vaping as alternatives, the WHO has pushed for bans on the products and even given India an award for banning vaping.
The MP fears that the WHO’s approach in countries like India which have some of the highest levels of smoking will lead to millions of unnecessary deaths.
He said: “The WHO attitude is quite infuriating not just because it’s wrong but because it’s so opaque.”
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The WHO has refused to allow journalists to attend its meeting in Panama just as it banned them from previous conferences on tobacco.
Mr Afriye said: “We don’t know who’s making the judgments, we just have pronouncements. The process is not transparent.
“We don’t know if these people have vested interests in their opinion.
“It strikes me that having left the European Union, being the world leader in smoking cessation, the idea that we then make ourselves subservient to an opaque organisation like this, and not only serve him but also funding it without actually trying to lead the way.
“It is quite, quite worrying.”
Mr Afriye made his comments shortly after Rishi Sunak revealed he is considering banning disposable vapes which some believe could lead to more deaths.
The Windsor MP believes that a ban will not come into place but warned he would be one of many to fight it if the Government pushes one.
He said: “If we look at Australia, they banned vaping other than as medical products, and now Australia is the only developed country in the world where smoking rates among teenagers and adults are rising.
“So I fear that if a ban were brought in for disposables, we may see a similar situation with those unintended consequences that actually smoking rates begin to rise again in the United Kingdom.”
He added: “But it does seem to me that we are right, the Government is right to be concerned about the level of youth vaping not because it’s going to kill them, but because they are taking on an addiction.
“I think we’ve got to be very wary about allowing a large portion of our kids to get addicted to things.”
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