The use of electronic cigarettes is “undoubtedly harmful” according to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).
WHO is urging governments to implement legislation for effective regulation of e-cigarettes, also known as ENDS or vapes, echoing calls from Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer initiative.
The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic says e-cigarettes have the potential to normalise smoking in society and attract young people through branding.
“Nicotine is addictive and [the use of] ENDS could lead people, particularly young people, to take up more harmful forms of tobacco consumption,” the report stated.
E-cigarettes have previously been presented as a safer alternative to smoking. However, since the products entered the market in the early 2000s, limited research has been done on their long-term effects.
In the last several years the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) has voiced concerns about the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes with young people. A 2018 report by HSS found that more than two million middle and high school students in the US use the products.
The tobacco industry has been accused of intentionally marketing e-cigarettes to young people. The devices come in an assortment of flavours and forms, some look like regular cigarettes, with others resembling pens or flash drives.
One of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers, Phillip Morris International (PMI), positions itself as a responsible public health partner and, as part of its “Unsmoke” campaign, encourages people to replace cigarettes and “change to a better alternative” in e-cigarettes.
Collaborate Against Cancer adviser Bruce Mansfield is pleased that WHO has made its position on e-cigarettes clear.
“Collaborate Against Cancer supports reforming tobacco and nicotine control regulations and is thrilled with the World Health Organisation’s report,” Bruce Mansfield said.
“We are hopeful that this will remind the Australian government how important it is to control e-cigarettes, especially for young people. We don’t want to see anyone picking up an e-cigarette or vape, thinking it’s a safer alternative to smoking.”
Tobacco remains the single biggest contributor to cancer and disease globally. Collaborate Against Cancer campaigns to ensure the current prohibition of the sale of nicotine based e-cigarettes stays in place in Australia.