World Health Organization Has Called for e-Cigarettes to be Banned.
World Health Organization Slams E-Cigarettes.
These messages doing rounds heavily online state that the World Health Organization has called for the ban of e-Cigarettes. The claim is partially fact, as discussed in detail below.
What’s an E-Cigarette?
E-Cigarette or electronic cigarette is a Chinese invention that is designed to look like a real cigarette, right down to the glowing tip. E-cigarettes come in various shapes, sizes and flavors, while some even look like cigars, pipes or hookahs (e-hookahs). When a smoker puffs on e-cigarette, the inbuilt system delivers a mist of liquid, flavorings and nicotine that appears like smoke. When the smoker inhales it like cigarette smoke, the nicotine is absorbed into the lungs.
E-cigarettes generally include nicotine and chemicals like propylene glycol to vaporize it, the ingredients vary though. Although e-cigarettes do not make real smoke, they have ignited a firestorm of controversy, also because they have become increasingly popular worldwide. So first let us see the suggested pros and cons of puffing an e-cigarette.
Some firms suggest e-cigarettes as a better way to “smoke” in smoke-free environments like in airplane lounges, restaurants and workplaces — for those smokers who do not plan to quit tobacco.
For the smokers addicted to nicotine, some firms suggest that switching to e-cigarettes will reduce the harm of their habit.
For people who want to quit smoking, some firms suggest that e-cigarettes may help them in the transition (more on this later). Some early studies also suggest that e-cigarettes can be more effective than the over-the-counter replacement products like gum or nicotine patches.
Some health officials warn that instead of helping to quit, e-cigarettes might worsen the nicotine habits of the user.
There are concerns that the unregulated sale of such (alternative) smoking products can attract new users who might then get hooked to it. In fact a CDC survey published in 2013 showed that e-cigarette use among middle school and high school students has doubled between 2011 and 2012.
Some e-cigarettes have also been found to give off harmful cancer-causing substances/chemicals like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other silicate particles.
Some studies in the past have shown that inhaling nicotine, even without the tobacco smoke, may contribute to heart disease.
Limited Studies & FDA’s Take
With limited studies done, there’s no proof that e-cigarettes do not cause long-term harm. The U.S. FDA did not review and did not approve the e-cigarette products. “We are concerned about the potential for addiction and abuse of these products. We don’t want the public to perceive them as a safer alternative to cigarettes,” said FDA spokeswoman, Rita Chapelle.
Countries like Brazil, Singapore, the Seychelles and Uruguay have banned e-cigarettes. In November 2013, European Union sought to ban all e-cigarette products because they ‘normalize the action of smoking’. The UK Department of Health said it was planning to prohibit their sale to under 18s by 2016.
World Health Organization’s Regulation of e-Cigarettes
In October 2014, during the 6th Conference of the Parties (COP), World Health Organization discussed the importance of tobacco regulation, also including the “Electronic nicotine delivery systems” (ENDS), of which electronic cigarettes are the most common prototype. The WHO concluded that regulations are needed to:
- Impede e-cigarette promotion to non-smokers and young people;
- Minimize potential health risks to e-cigarette users and nonusers;
- Prohibit unproven health claims about e-cigarettes; and
- Protect existing tobacco control efforts from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
WHO suggested government bodies to restrict the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of e-cigarette, so that it does not target the youth, non-smokers and the people who do not use nicotine. They suggested to prevent manufacturers from marketing e-cigarettes as “smoking cessation aids” until they provide enough scientific evidence to back the claim. They also suggested a ban on e-cigarettes with fruit, candy-like and alcohol-drink flavors until it is proved they are not attractive to children and adolescents.
Ban Indoor Use
The WHO report states that legal steps should be taken to end use of e-cigarettes indoors in public and work places, because existing evidence suggests that the exhaled e-cigarette aerosol is not merely “water vapor” and increases the background air level of some toxicants, nicotine and particles, which in turn, can affect non-smokers and bystanders. There are also suggestions that use of e-cigarette devices poses threats to adolescents and fetuses of pregnant mothers.
Therefore, amidst the current, insufficient evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes help users quit smoking or not, the World Health Organization recommends that smokers should first be encouraged to quit smoking and nicotine addiction by using already-approved treatments. Rightly so, because inhaling a substance is not the same as swallowing it. The WHO report was welcomed by health officials, who also pointed the fact that the advertising of electronic cigarettes can make smoking seem a normal, glamorous habit, when it is anything but.
Hoax or Fact: