WHO Urges Stronger Regulation of E-Cigarettes

Governments are urged to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and outlaw tactics by financially powerful companies to lure young users.

Electronic cigarettes
Electronic cigarettes

Such companies are using the current tolerance of the new products as a gateway to ensnaring a new generation of smokers at a time when the public health authorities seem to be winning the battle against tobacco, the World Health Organization said in a report released on Tuesday.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered vaporizers which simulate tobacco smoking by producing an aerosol that resembles smoke.

It uses a heating element known as an atomizer, which vaporizes a liquid solution known as e-liquid.  The Brand is marketed by manufacturers as aids to quit smoking, or as healthier alternatives to tobacco.

But the World health organization says that e-cigarettes pose a threat to people’s health and efforts made to discourage adolescents from smoking.  It added that since 2005, the product has created a global industry with 466 brands worth an estimated $3 billion a year.

“Because there were still too many uncertainties surrounding e-cigarettes, which have been on the market for less than a decade, their use indoors should be banned “until exhaled vapor is proven to be not harmful to bystanders,” the report reads.

The report also called for regulation to ensure the products contain a standard dose of nicotine, as the drug content now varies widely among manufacturers.

And to stop children from picking up the habit, it said that e-cigarette sales to minors should be banned and that fruity, candy-type flavorings should be prohibited.

However, the proposals by the organization, a United Nations agency, are only recommendations that might have little likelihood of being widely adopted.

But health experts said they would serve as an important reference point for policy makers, both nationally and locally, as they try to navigate the complex balance of benefits and risks with very little science on which to base conclusions.

Douglas Bettcher, the Director of Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases at WHO says the E-Cigarettes increase the exposure of non-smokers and bystanders to nicotine and a number of other toxicants.

Many health experts welcomed the recommendations, which they said would help guide policy makers around the world as they struggle to keep up with a multibillion-dollar industry.

But some experts said they worried that the proposals were so restrictive that they might undermine the potential benefits of e-cigarettes, which, because they use battery-powered heating units to vaporize a liquid nicotine solution rather than burn tobacco, might not expose users to as many hazards as conventional cigarettes.

Some have even argued that e-cigarettes have the potential to drastically reduce rates of smoking, one of the biggest causes of preventable death worldwide, and so should not be overregulated.

The concern at global level comes at the backdrop of  reports that Uganda will become one of the African countries where there more people’s lives will be claimed by tobacco consumption if its tobacco control will not be intensified by year 2030.

In recent times e cigarettes have become more common in Kampala where vaping an electronic cigarette is almost similar to smoking a traditional cigarette.

And because there is no law that bans their use and importation, the trend exposes unsuspecting youths to the dangers highlighted by the World Health Organisation.

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