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WHO 'misleading' in 'negative' review of e-cigarettes, say academics

Public health experts have hit back at the World Health Organisation’s recent review of e-cigarettes, arguing that its negativity could put the public ‘in danger of forgoing the potential health benefits’ of the devices which could ‘save millions of lives’.

Writing in the journal Addiction, academics led by Professor Ann McNeill from the National Addiction Centre, accuse the agency of releasing a ‘misleading’ review of the devices which was not an ‘accurate reflection of available evidence’ after the WHO said e-cigarettes were acting as a gateway to young people taking up cigarette smoking and that bystanders could inhale significant levels of harmful e-cigarette vapour.

The WHO called for e-cigarette advertising, promotion and sponsorship to be restricted to ensure that it does not target youth and non-smokers and argued the devices should be banned in public and work places.

However the academics said that the use of e-cigarettes by young people is ‘extremely rare’ and that youth smoking rates are declining.

Evidence shows that e-cigarette use is not encouraging the uptake of cigarette smoking and is instead providing an alternative to smoking, with the potential to ‘save millions of lives’ during the 21st century, they said.

Professor McNeill said: ‘E-cigarettes are new and we certainly don’t yet have all the answers as to their long-term health impact, but what we do know is that they are much safer than cigarettes.’ 

‘Any policies surrounding e-cigarettes must be evidence based and like any product, e-cigarettes should be subjected to some form of regulation.’

‘The WHO’s approach will make it harder to bring these products to market than tobacco products, inhibit innovation and put off smokers from using e-cigarettes, putting us in danger of foregoing the public health benefits these products could have.’

The study comes after researchers from University College London, led by Professor Robert West, claimed earlier this week in the British Journal of General Practice that more than 6,000 premature deaths could be prevented in the in the UK annually for every one million smokers who give up tobacco and use e-cigarettes.

However the Faculty of Public Health warned today that the ‘vaping’ from e-cigarettes may look alluring to young people and although it did not want to see a ban, the devices needed ‘proper regulation’.

>>>> Clinical Newswire

Readers' comments (4)

  • Vinci Ho

    Are we talking about choosing a lesser evil which is supposed to cause less harm OR are we looking at a potentially effective therapy to help smokers to quit all together ?
    I think quitting all together is essential and still cannot condone with using e-cigarette as an permanent substitute , like methadone for heroine.

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  • I know its anecdotal evidence but my dad gave up with them quite easily and I never thought he would stop having tried previously. He was usually happy with one puff now and then (much less nicotine than a cigarette) and gradually forgot about it over about 3 months. I don't think he wanted to spend the money on refill cartridges tbh

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  • Although we may be in pursuit of perfection, So much of our work is about damage limitation-weight management, counseling and stress management, healthy lifestyle advice, smoking reduction, using alternatives to illegal drugs etc. etc.
    So here in the real world, lets keep the e cigarette for now.

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  • Risk reduction folks... risk reduction... they are here to stay.... anyone for examining the harm and/or harm reduction in ex-smokers who still use the odd nicotine lozenge....like myself...stopped for 10 years now....

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