A World Health Organization-commissioned review of electronic cigarettes contains errors, misinterpretations and misrepresentations that could lead to policymakers missing the potential health benefits of these products, according to a story by Kate Kelland, quoting tobacco addiction experts.
The background paper on electronic cigarettes acted as a blueprint for a WHO report calling for more regulation of the devices.
“I was shocked and surprised when I read it,” Ann McNeill, a researcher at the national addiction center at King’s College London, told reporters at a briefing. “I felt it was an inaccurate portrayal of the evidence on e-cigarettes.”
McNeill said that while e-cigarettes were relatively new and that the totality of their long-term health impacts was not known, it was clear that they were far safer than were tobacco cigarettes, which killed more than six million people a year.
Peter Hajek of the tobacco dependence research unit at Queen Mary University of London, who co-authored the critique, said it was vital that electronic cigarettes should be assessed in relation to the known harms of tobacco cigarettes.
“There are currently two products competing for smokers’ custom,” he said. “One – the conventional cigarette – endangers users and bystanders and recruits new customers from among non-smoking children who try it.
“The other – the 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.”
Yet the WHO’s recommendations, if implemented, would make it harder to bring electronic cigarettes to market and could discourage smokers from using them, the experts said, putting policymakers and the public in danger of foregoing the public health benefits electronic cigarettes could have.