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Updated On: Monday, 22 July 2019

Are E-Cigarettes as Bad as Regular Cigarettes?

Content by: South-South News

26 August 2014, New York, USA | Brendan Pastor – With the unexpectedly fast growth and intake of E-cigarettes, international health groups and institutions are taking a closer look at the effects of these new products.

This week, the World Health Organization has released a report suggesting that E-cigarettes are more harmful than their designers say, and therefore deserve wider global regulation.

“In this report, WHO is recommending clearly that regulation is required. The rationale for that is that regulation will maximize the potential of e-cigarettes and similar devices and minimize the risks of these products,” Douglas Bettcher, Director of the Department for Prevention of Non-communicable Diseases at WHO, said.

“Underlying reasons for regulations are really to impede the promotion of these products to non-smokers and youth, and really to minimize the health risk to both users and non-users of e-cigarettes and related products,” Bettcher added. 

Part of the report’s more focused assessment considers the misinformation that has been disseminated by tobacco companies pushing for wider use of E-cigarettes.

Often said to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes, containing fewer levels of chemicals, and emitting water vapor as a bi-product, E-cigarettes are nevertheless carriers of some cancer-causing agents, WHO officials found.

“First, nicotine is highly addictive, a key component of electronic cigarettes and affects the brain development of adolescents and fetuses of pregnant women. Second, they are not just water vapor as indicated by the marketing of these products. They contain chemicals and usually even a few cancer causing agents,” said Armando Peruga, Programme Manager of the WHO's Tabacco Free Initiative.

“Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine and other chemicals and usually a few cancer causing substances although a much lower level than a conventional cigarette, it doesn't mean that there not without risk,” Paruga added.

Bettcher stressed that the WHO’s mission is not only to identify public health concerns, but to also combat the misinformation that can aggravate them. In the case of E-cigarettes, this necessarily means taking on vested interests in the tobacco industry.

WHO’s mission, he says, is “to absolutely prohibit unsubstantiated health claims. And then absolutely to prevent the tobacco industry from undermining the great success we have seen in tobacco control, because, let's face it, the tobacco industry is now a major producer and manufacturer of e-cigarettes and related products.”

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