Experts warn WHO not to “control and suppress” e-cigarettes
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been warned by scientists to “resist the urge to control and suppress e-cigarettes”, arguing that these safer nicotine products could be part of the solution to reduce non-communicable diseases.
A group of 53 leading experts from 15 countries have urged the WHO to reconsider its stance on e-cigarettes being a “threat” to public health.
In an open letter to WHO director general Margaret Chan, the experts wrote: “These products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives. The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted.”
Gerry Stimson, emeritus professor at Imperial College London and one of the signatories on the letter, warned that excessive restrictions will put more lives at risk.
Gerry said: “If the WHO gets its way and extinguishes e-cigarettes, it will not only have passed up what is clearly one of the biggest public health innovations of the last three decades that could potentially save millions of lives, but it will have abrogated its own responsibility under its own charter to empower consumers to take control of their own health.”
Leaked documents from a meeting last November suggest the WHO observes e-cigarettes as a “threat” and wants them classified in a way similar to other tobacco products under the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC).
A spokesman of the WHO said: “WHO is still unsure of its position on e-cigarettes and is currently working on recommendations for governments on the regulation and marketing of e-cigarettes and similar devices. We are also working with national regulatory bodies to look at regulatory options, as well as toxicology experts, to understand more about the possible impact of e-cigarettes.”
Professor Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, backed the WHO statement and said: “The organisation correctly bases its decisions on the best available evidence.”