WHO urges stiff regulations on e-cigarettes

The World Health Organization (WHO) stepped up its war on 'Big Tobacco' on Tuesday, calling for stiff regulation of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, as well as bans on indoor use, advertising and sales to minors.

It released a long-awaited report that will be debated by member states at a meeting in October in Moscow.

In the report, the WHO said there are 466 brands of e- cigarettes and the industry represents “an evolving frontier filled with promise and threat for tobacco control”.

It urged a range of regulatory options, including banning e-cigarette makers from making health claims such as that they help people quit smoking, until they provide convincing supporting scientific evidence.

Smokers should use a combination of already-approved treatments for kicking the habit, it said.

While evidence indicates that they are likely to be less toxic than conventional cigarettes, the use of e- cigarettes poses a threat to adolescents and the fetuses of pregnant women using them, it said.

'Not merely water vapour'

E-cigarettes also increase the exposure of bystanders and non-smokers to nicotine and other toxicants, it said regarding Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems that it calls ENDS.

“In summary, existing evidence shows that ENDS aeorsol is not merely ‘water vapour’ as is often claimed in the marketing for these products,” the WHO said in the 13-page report.

E-cigarettes should be regulated to “minimise content and emissions of toxicants”, and those solutions with fruit, candy-like and alcohol-drinks flavours should be banned until proven they are not attractive to children and adolescents, it said.

Adolescents are increasingly experimenting with e- cigarettes, with their use in this age group doubling between 2008 and 2012, it said.

The Singapore Tobacco Act prevents the distribution, sale or import of e-cigarettes here. 

Source: Reuters, The Straits Times