- New report by U.N. agency raises fears over safety of electronic devices
- Says their use should be regulated and sales to minors banned
- Still unclear whether exhaled vapour poses health risk to bystanders
- WHO fears competition for market share may be compromising safety
There are fears that e-cigarettes still carry the risks of passive smoking, a new report warns
Electronic cigarettes should be banned from indoors and face a raft of new curbs over safety fears, the World Health Organisation insisted yesterday.
It claims they pose a risk to bystanders of ‘toxicant’ emissions and warns there is limited evidence they help smokers quit.
A report by the organisation, which is the public health arm of the United Nations, says legal steps need to be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes in public indoor spaces and workplaces – and to ban sales to children.
It recommends stopping manufacturers advertising the devices as ‘smoking cessation aids’ until they provide scientific evidence, and calls for rules against fruit, sweet or alcoholic-drink style flavours which may encourage younger smokers.
Vending machines offering the products should be removed ‘in almost all locations’, the report says. It warns that e-cigarette vapour could raise background air levels of toxicants and nicotine which may not be acceptable to ‘involuntarily exposed bystanders’.
WHO adds that few studies have examined whether the devices, invented in China in 2003, are effective in helping tobacco smokers to quit, though one trial found they work as well as nicotine patches.
Around 2.1million Britons use battery-powered e-cigarettes, which allow users to inhale nicotine but avoid the harm caused by tobacco smoke.
The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency decided they must be regulated as medicines to make them ‘safer and more effective’, but this is not due until 2016. Some experts have expressed concerns about chemicals in the liquid.
The new report also recommends preventing manufacturers from marketing e-cigarettes as ‘smoking cessation aids’ until they provide scientific evidence to back the claim
E-CIGS ‘MORE TEMPTING TO YOUNG NON-SMOKERS’
Electronic cigarettes may be more tempting to non-smoking youths than conventional cigarettes, U.S. researchers warned yesterday.
And once young people have tried e-cigarettes they are more inclined to give regular cigarettes a try.
The report, released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, backs up the argument that electronic cigarettes encourage youth smoking.
The study, based on youth surveys, found that more than a quarter of a million youngsters who had never smoked used an electronic cigarette in 2013.
This was a threefold increase from 2011.
Those who had tried e-cigarettes were nearly twice as likely to say they would try a conventional cigarette in the next year compared with those who had never tried an e-cigarette, according to the study in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
But a major scientific review last month, which looked at 81 studies of e-cigarettes, found they caused less harm than smoking.
WHO appears to have ignored appeals from experts to ‘resist the urge to control and suppress e-cigarettes’.
an open letter in May, 53 researchers and public health specialists
warned against over-regulation, saying the devices could be a
‘significant health innovation’ and that classifying them as tobacco
‘will do more harm than good’.
Gerry Stimson, of Imperial College London and public health campaign
group Knowledge-Action-Change, accused WHO of ‘cherry-picking’ the
He said it was
‘exaggerating the risks of e-cigarettes, while downplaying the huge
potential of these non-combustible low-risk nicotine products to end the
epidemic of tobacco-related disease’.
claims e-cigarettes are a threat to public health, but this statement
has no evidence to support it, and ignores the large number of people
who are using them to cut down or quit smoking completely,’ he added.
on Smoking and Health said it could not back any plans to add
e-cigarettes to smoke-free laws. The charity’s Hazel Cheeseman said
there was ‘no evidence of any harm to bystanders’, adding: ‘Smokers who
switch to using e-cigarettes … are likely to substantially reduce their
health risks … and research suggests that they are already helping
smokers to quit.’
Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We have already set out our
intention to change the law to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children
ARE E-CIGARETTES AS HARMFUL AS TOBACCO? AN EXPERT VIEW…
Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction, National Addiction Centre, King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, said:
E-cigarette use results in much lower exposure to toxins for users than regular cigarettes, says Professor McNeill (file picture)
‘The e-cigarette market is rapidly evolving and research on the huge variety of products on the market, what they emit and what their health impacts are, lags behind.
‘What we do know is that e-cigarettes do not emit the thousands of constituents delivered in tobacco smoke, 70 of which are known carcinogens. Instead e-cigarettes emit a vapourised solution principally of propylene glycol or glycerine, water and flavours, usually with nicotine.
‘While the WHO report concludes that e-cigarettes use ’produces lower exposures to toxicants than combustible products’ I believe that this is an understatement. We can be confident that e-cigarette use results in much lower exposure to toxins for users.
‘Although e-cigarette vapour may be an irritant to people in close proximity to the e-cigarette user, there is no evidence of harm from other people inhaling e-cigarette vapour unlike the known risks of second hand cigarette smoke. There is also as yet no evidence that e-cigarettes are renormalisng smoking.
Based on their analysis, the WHO proposes a range of regulations for e-cigarettes and my concern is that these will deter smokers from trying to use them. Cigarette smoking is so uniquely dangerous that anything we can do to encourage smokers to stop should be welcomed.’