World Health Organization (WHO) said the use of electronic cigarettes should be banned indoors, and that manufacturers should stop claiming they are an aid to quitting smoking.
The WHO recently published a comprehensive report tackling electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), commonly known as e-cigarettes. They wrote:
“ENDS, of which electronic cigarettes are the most common prototype, deliver an aerosol by heating a solution that users inhale. The main constituents of the solution by volume, in addition to nicotine when nicotine is present, are propylene glycol, with or without glycerol and flavoring agents.”
The use of electronic cigarettes is booming. In the study cited by the WHO in the report, there will be 466 brands this year, and that in 2013, $3 billion was spent on ENDS globally. WHO added that sales are estimated to increase by a factor of 17 in 2030. Furthermore, the use of such products among adults and adolescents has doubled between 2008 and 2012.
WHO also tackled three questions concerning the use of ENDS. These are:
– Health risks to users and non-users
– efficacy in helping smokers to quit smoking and ultimately nicotine dependence
– interference with existing tobacco control efforts and implementation of the WHO FCTC
According to the organization, there is too little evidence of the long-term effect to not crack down on widespread use. They recommend that e-cigarettes should be banned from being smoked indoors in public places, and that manufacturers should stop claiming they help smokers to quit unless there is firm evidence that this is the case.
Furthermore, advertising and sweetened flavors should also be restricted, as there is no evidence that e-cigarettes do not pose a health risk to those who inhale smoke passively as bystanders, or to foetuses in the case of pregnant women. WHO said that even though nicotine is not a carcinogen, it may function as a ‘tumor promoter’. They added that nicotine seems to be involved in aspects of the biology of malignant diseases, as well as of neurodegeneration.
“In summary, existing evidence shows that ENDS (electronic nicotine delivery systems) aerosol is not merely ‘water vapour’ as is often claimed in the marketing for these products,” the 13-page report read.
The rate of nicotine ingestion or overdose has also increased along with the rise in the number of people using electronic cigarettes. While incidents of nicotine overdose in other countries are not properly documented, reports from the US and UK indicate that the number of reported incidents involving nicotine poisoning has significantly increased as the use of ENDs has increased.
Electronic cigarettes are widely considered to be less harmful than traditional nicotine cigarettes. But the new WHO report suggests it’s about time to think twice about using them.