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WHO Urges Crackdown on e-Cigarettes
Aug 30, 2014

The U.N. health agency said, Governments should have tougher rules for electronic cigarettes—banning their use indoors and putting them off limits for minors—until more evidence can be gathered about their risks. In a bid to set public policy, the World Health Organization said the popular nicotine-vapour products, particularly the fruit, candy and alcohol-drink flavors, could serve as gateway addictions for children and adolescents.

It recommended governments forbid or keep to a minimum any advertising, promotion or sponsorship in a market that has mushroomed to $3 billion last year and now includes 466 different brands.

In a report, the WHO found that the boom in e-cigarettes presents a public health dilemma. Regulation is a necessary precondition for establishing a scientific basis on which to judge the effects of their use.

Little is known about the health effects of e-cigarettes, which have been sold in the U.S. since 2007 and contain less toxic substances than traditional cigarettes do. The biggest markets are Europe and North America, where U.S. regulators in April proposed treating e-cigarettes as tobacco products with rules such as a ban on sales to those under 18 and warning labels. Sales are banned in 13 of the 59 countries that regulate the devices, but most of those 13 countries say they are still available because of illicit trade and cross-border Internet sales.

The WHO report, requested in 2012 by the 179-nation WHO treaty for controlling tobacco, is to be discussed at a conference in Moscow in October. If the recommendations are adopted, the next step would be for nations to strengthen their laws and policies to meet the treaty obligations.

According to WHO, Transnational tobacco companies are aggressively competing with independent companies for market share and the rapid growth of e-cigarettes' use globally means appropriate regulation is needed. E-cigarettes are a story of both risks and promises. In a sense they are a double-edged sword. The tobacco industry is taking greater share—as public health partners pretending to be part of the solution to the health disaster they have created.


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