Policymakers and Global Health Organizations Oppose WHO Report on E-cigarettes

A wave of criticism has erupted from policymakers and health organizations around the world in response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent report calling for a ban on e-cigarettes. They accused the report of relying on skewed scientific evidence that downplays the potential benefits of alternative smoking products to promote a predetermined conclusion of banning e-cigarettes or imposing strict regulations on them.

A Philippines-based public health advocacy organization announced its rejection of the report, saying that the WHO is hindering the significant progress that has been made in public health over the past two decades in terms of smokers switching to smoke-free products. Dr. Lorenzo Mata Jr., President of ‘Quit for Good’, emphasized that there is a lot of scientific evidence that smoke-free alternatives such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco, and snus have helped millions of smokers in the UK, US, Japan, and Sweden to quit smoking successfully. He condemned the WHO’s continued rejection of e-cigarettes despite all this evidence.

In addition, the WHO provided data indicating that the global e-cigarette market grew from $7.806 billion in 2015 to $22.349 billion in 2022. Between 2018 and 2022, the disposable e-cigarette market experienced a significant growth of 116%, to include more than 550,000 different products.

Dr. Mata added that the WHO’s diagnosis of the situation is flawed, because it fails to recognize the significant reduction in harmful exposure resulting from smokers switching to e-cigarettes and other smoke-free alternatives. He also highlighted that smoke-free products work better for many smokers than traditional quit-smoking therapies.

Mata said, “E-cigarettes do not threaten public health but provide smokers with a safe way to quit. The classification of these innovative products as a new threat to public health is worrying, as discussing the continuation of traditional cigarettes as a better option rather than switching to e-cigarettes is a ‘clear mistake.’ He pointed out that many countries, including the Philippines, have chosen to adopt scientific evidence and regulate the use of innovative smoke-free products such as e-cigarettes to provide smokers with better options for quitting smoking.

Andrea Leadsom, MP, Under-Secretary for Health, said, “There will be discussions on progress made in tobacco control at COP10. Britain is certainly an exception when it comes to e-cigarettes and we will continue to mark them as an important tool in helping adults quit smoking. Our priority is to help and protect our citizens from the risks of smoking.” She added that Britain has a world-leading approach in tobacco and nicotine harm reduction.

Andrew Lewer, MP (Conservative, Northampton South), said, “We know that the WHO has a skeptical approach to low-risk products, including e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and nicotine pouches, believing that these products pose a health risk. This is in contrast to the UK’s approach to tobacco control, which is a world leader.”

‘Quit for Good’ organization emphasized that countries that have banned e-cigarettes have not been successful in eliminating vaping, but have unintentionally created an unregulated black market that poses public health risks due to the absence of regulatory standards. They called on governments to regulate the trade of these modern products. Commenting on a similar WHO report published earlier, Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, said: “It is bizarre that WHO has adopted this anti-vaping stance which risks hindering this progress, given the huge potential public health benefits of switching.

The new report calls for a ban on safer alternatives while allowing deadly tobacco to be sold freely. This report misrepresents the evidence and should come with a large health warning.” Professor John Britton, an emeritus professor of Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, said the WHO still fails to differentiate between addiction to tobacco smoking, which leads to millions of deaths annually, and addiction to nicotine, which does not.

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