WHO calls for ban on e-cigarettes for minors

Health organisation warns devices should be regulated and not smoked indoors

World Health Organization (WHO) issued a long-awaited report today on electronic cigarettes that called for regulation of the devices and their contents, as well as bans on indoor use, advertising and sales to minors. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

World Health Organization (WHO) issued a long-awaited report today on electronic cigarettes that called for regulation of the devices and their contents, as well as bans on indoor use, advertising and sales to minors. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a long-awaited report today on electronic cigarettes that called for regulation of the devices and their contents, as well as bans on indoor use, advertising and sales to minors.

The United Nations health agency, in a report to be debated by member states at a meeting in October, voiced concern at the concentration of the multi-billion dollar market in the hands of transnational tobacco companies.

The WHO urged a range of “regulatory options”, including prohibiting e-cigarette makers from making health claims- such as that they help people quit smoking - until they provide “convincing supporting scientific evidence and obtain regulatory approval”.

E-cigarettes should be regulated to “minimise content and emissions of toxicants”, and those solutions with fruit, candy-like and alcohol-drinks flavours should be banned, it said, and vending machines should be removed in almost all locations.

No regulation in Ireland

The Irish Government is working on drafting legislation on “non-medicinal nicotine delivery systems (including e-cigarettes)”, according to a statement from the Department of Health. However there is currently no regulation of e-cigarettes in Ireland.

The Department said such legislation would introduce licensing for e-cigarettes and prohibit the sale of such products to minors. The drafting of the heads of a bill was approved by the Cabinet in late June.

The EU has also been legislating for e-cigarettes as part its 2014 Tobacco Products Directive which came into force on May 19th. Member states have two years to transpose the directive into domestic legislation, the Department of Health said in a statement.

The EU directive sets safety and quality requirements on the nicotine content and ingredients of e-cigarettes, it makes health warning obligatory, it imposes tighter advertising rules . Manufacturers will also have to notify Member States before placing new products on the market

The use of e-cigarettes have been banned in hospitals around the State after the Health Service Executive introduced a ban on campuses from May in the same way as tobacco is banned. A ban has also been introduced across all Irish Rail services.

Neither the Department of Health nor the HSE collect information about the sales of e-cigarettes in Ireland.

However Nielsen data released earlier this year showed sharp growth in the sale of e-cigarettes in Ireland up by 478 per cent last year to €7.36m from a low base in 2012. This is still far behind the more than €1bn in sale of cigarettes.

Risks and benefits

Scientists are divided on the risks and potential benefits of e- cigarettes, which are widely considered to be a lot less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

One group of researchers warned the WHO in May not to classify them as tobacco products, arguing that doing so would jeopardise an opportunity to slash disease and deaths caused by smoking. Opposing experts argued a month later that the WHO should hold firm to its plan for strict regulations.

Major tobacco companies including Imperial Tobacco, Altria Group, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are increasingly launching their own e-cigarette brands as sales of conventional products stall in Western markets.

A Wells Fargo analyst report in July projected that US sales of e- cigarettes would outpace conventional ones by 2020. Uptake of electronic cigarettes, which use battery-powered cartridges to produce a nicotine-laced inhalable vapour, has rocketed in the last two years and analysts estimate the industry had worldwide sales of some $3 billion in 2013.

But the devices are controversial. Because they are so new there is a lack of long-term scientific evidence to support their safety and some fear they could be “gateway” products to nicotine addiction and tobacco smoking.

Reuters