WHO calls for global crackdown on e-cigs – By Benjamin Goad – 08/26/14 01:55 PM EDT

The World Health Organization (WHO) called Tuesday for tougher regulations around the globe on a burgeoning electronic cigarette industry “filled with promise and threat for tobacco control.”

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A new WHO report largely mirrors positions taken by public health advocates in the United States and adds to mounting pressure on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is now weighing a final rule to bring e-cigarettes under its supervision.

WHO member states will debate the report during October meetings in Moscow. Among its findings is a need for regulations to stop the marketing of e-cigarettes to children, minimize health risks and block the industry from making unsubstantiated health claims.
Because e-cigarettes produce nicotine vapor instead of smoke and tar, they are sometimes viewed as a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes and as a potential cessation tool.

However, WHO determined that there is insufficient evidence to conclude e-cigarettes help users quit smoking. Thus, the report’s authors found that the products present an “evolving frontier filled with promise and threat for tobacco control.”

In particular, the group urged member states to “restrict e-cigarette advertising, promotion and sponsorship, to ensure that it does not target youth and non-smokers or people who do not currently use nicotine.”

WHO also calls for legal steps to outlaw the use of e-cigarettes indoors or at workplaces, given research that shows exhaled nicotine vapors push toxic substances into the air.

The report comes a day after the American Heart Association unveiled a similar set of recommendations. 

The FDA issued a proposed rule to assert authority over the largely unregulated industry, which is worth an estimated $3 billion worldwide. The agency has completed a public comment period that attracted more than 70,000 comments and is now preparing a final rule.

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