Disclosure: We may receive a commission for purchases made by consumers after clicking though one of the links on this website.

Health Experts Criticize World Health Organization for ‘Alarmist’ Report on E-Cigarettes

Reputed researchers and tobacco health experts from University College London and King College London, in England, recently took a stand for electronic cigarettes and criticized the World Health Organization’s report on the revolutionary devices, calling it ‘alarmist’ and ‘misleading’.

e-cigarette-sign“We were surprised by the negativity of the commissioned review, and found it misleading and not an accurate reflection of available evidence.” Professor Ann McNeill, lead author from the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London, said about the WHO’s report on electronic cigarettes. “E-cigarettes are new and we certainly don’t yet have all the answers as to their long-term health impact, but what we do know is that they are much safer than cigarettes, which kill over 6 million people a year worldwide.” In an article published in the online journal Addiction, McNeil and Professor Peter Hajek, co-author from the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, argued that the WHO’s report contains “important errors, misinterpretations and misrepresentations”.

Last week, the World Health Organization released a highly-anticipated report on electronic cigarettes, calling for a ban on them in restaurants and at the workplace, as well as advertising restrictions so they can’t be marketed to minors and non-smokers. The analysis published by the WHO also suggested there was not evidence to prove the benefits of using electronic cigarettes. A previous report, from December 2013, claimed that there was reason to believe electronic cigarettes are a gateway to smoking especially for youths, and that bystanders could inhale significant levels of toxins from the vapor they emit.

Writing in the journal Addiction, researchers called both reports misleading. They especially criticized the WHO’s review of electronic cigarettes for giving the impression that electronic cigarettes actually make it harder for smokers to quit, when in fact the opposite is true. The two experts also claimed that e-cigarettes are not only considerably less harmful than analogs, but that the concentrations of toxins found in the vapor are only a tiny fraction of what is contained in cigarette smoke, and too low to present significant health risks.

“There are currently two products competing for smokers’ custom,” Professor Peter Hajek wrote. One, the conventional cigarette, endangers users and bystanders and recruits new customers from among non-smoking children who try it.  The other, 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. The WHO recommendations blur these differences and if followed, will cripple the competitiveness of e-cigarettes and help to maintain the market monopoly of conventional cigarettes.”

Meanwhile, a team of researchers at University College London calculated that for every million UK smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes, more than 6,000 lives could be saved every year. Considering there are now around 9 million smokers in Britain, that amounts to around 54,000 saved lives per year. It’s important to note that the calculation of this reduced risk of death takes into consideration that electronic cigarettes may also carry an increased risk of death.

“You have to be a bit crazy to carry on smoking conventional cigarettes when there are e-cigarettes available,” Professor Robert West, from the UCL research team, said. “The vapor contains nothing like the concentrations of carcinogens and toxins as cigarette smoke. In fact, concentrations are almost all well below a twentieth of cigarettes.”

West went on to characterize the World Health Organization’s recommendations on electronic cigarettes as ‘puritanical’ and ‘ridiculous’. He cited evidence that shows smoking rates are continuing to drop as electronic cigarette use grows, and that the use of electronic cigarettes among those who have never smoked is less than 0.2 percent. Although Professor West believes the UK’s NHS stop smoking services offer the best hope of quitting, he stated that using e-cigarettes is more effective than going cold turkey or buying nicotine replacement products, like patches or gum.

“I completely understand concerns about potential risks from this phenomenon but it is vital that public health experts separate opinion from evidence,” West added. “England has one of the most liberal regimes in terms of e-cigarettes use in the world so if there was going to be a problem it would be here.”

“The fact that in England we are not looking to ban e-cigarettes in public places is right and in line with the evidence,” said Professor Ann McNeill, from King’s College London. “But I think there are still concerns about the implications of the European Tobacco Directive. It will restrict marketing and the strength of the products which will take off the market some products that help smokers to quit.”

Photo: Leo Reynolds

Leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

*