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Experts slam e-cigarette restriction proposals

Friday September 5th, 2014

Proposals for worldwide restrictions on e-cigarettes are based on a misleading analysis, British experts said today.

The World Health Organisation is considering recommending tough rules limiting the use of the devices.

This would reflect its advice on ordinary cigarettes, restricting advertising and use in public places.

But a report in the journal Addiction today expressed "surprise" at the negativity of the WHO study, due to be considered at an international conference in Moscow.

Professor Ann McNeill, of the National Addiction Centre at King's College London, said the WHO report does not reflect the available evidence.

She said the concentration of toxins in e-cigarette vapour was a "tiny fraction" of that found in cigarette smoke.

These concentrations were too low to present a significant risk to by-standers.

She said WHO had also given the impression the devices might hamper quitting tobacco when "the opposite was true."

She said today: "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, which kill over 6 million people a year worldwide.

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

Fellow expert Professor Peter Hajek, from the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, added: "There are currently two products competing for smokers' custom. One, the conventional cigarette, endangers users and bystanders and recruits new customers from among non-smoking children who try it. The other, e-cigarette, is orders of magnitude safer, poses no risk to bystanders, and generates negligible rates of regular use among non-smoking children who try it.

"The WHO recommendations blur these differences and if followed, will cripple the competitiveness of e-cigarettes and help to maintain the market monopoly of conventional cigarettes."

And a third expert Dr Jacques le Houezec, consultant in Public Health and Tobacco dependence in France, said: "The use of e-cigarettes could save millions of lives during this century, and have the most important public health impact in the history of tobacco use."

McNeill A et al. A critique of a WHO-commissioned report and associated article on electronic cigarettes. Addiction 4 September 2014; doi: 10.1111/add.12730 [abstract]

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Europe | Respiratory | UK News | World Health

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