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Doctors Urge WHO to Tighten Controls Over E-Cigarette Market

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Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has received a letter signed by over 100 leading specialists from around the world, urging for tighter controls to be put in place regarding the electronic cigarette market.

Those who have signed the letter want e-cigarettes to be subjected to the same tight controls as tobacco and have raised concerns regarding the current advertising of e-cigarettes. They argue that unfettered advertising and marketing of e cigarettes will renormalize smoking and strongly undermine public smoking bans.

The letter states:

"If the tobacco industry were committed to reducing the harm caused by tobacco use, it would announce target dates to stop manufacturing, marketing and selling its more harmful products rather than simply adding e-cigarettes to its product mix and rapidly taking over the e-cigarette market.

"It would also immediately desist from its aggressive opposition to tobacco control policies such as tax increases, graphic health warnings and plain packaging."  Signatories of the letter include Prof John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health (FPH); Prof Rifat Atun, of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Prof Robert Beaglehole, of the University of Auckland.

The argument for or against e-cigarettes has become completely polarised. Many disagree with tighter controls, and strongly believe that in regulating and placing such restrictions on the devices could deter people from using them, could make it harder for smokers to gain access to them, and as a result have a negative impact on public health.

Prof Robert West, from University College London, whose recent study showed e-cigarettes were more effective than nicotine replacement therapy at helping people stop smoking, was a signatory to an earlier letter asking the WHO not to clamp down.

E-cigs have the potential to be used as a tobacco harm reduction product. It is of vital importance that WHO understand this, and realise that electronic cigarettes are a lot safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, and could aid in a significant reductions in death and disease from tobacco.

 

25th June 2014, 10:58