Scientists Call For International E-Cigarette Restrictions

Nearly 130 doctors and scientists are asking the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue stringent regulations for e-cigarettes.

An open letter issued to WHO on June 16 calls on the organization to begin regulating e-cigarettes in the same manner other tobacco products, like cigarettes, are regulated.

Spearheaded by Stanton Glantz, of the University of California, San Francisco, the initiative urges WHO to stand by previously stated intentions to impose strict regulations. The intention was first expressed in a statement issued by the agency earlier this month.

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The letter to WHO was signed by health officials from 31 countries, including scientists and health experts from the United States.

It calls for manufacturers to present data showing e-cigarette products are safe and actively help smokers quit smoking. The letter also asks manufacturers to disclose the ingredients used in the liquid nicotine solutions.

The scientists object to the claims that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices. The letter also argues that regulating the products like cigarettes is necessary to prevent use by teens or harm to users.

“Remaining unregulated, risk profiles and potential harms these products may pose to the public are unknown,” Glantz said in the letter. “Insufficient time has elapsed to determine what effects exist and their magnitude on a population level.”

The letter, addressed to Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, comes in response to a letter issued to the WHO last month by 53 advocates of e-cigarettes. That letter calls e-cigarettes a solution in the fight against smoking. Those advocates argue e-cigarette regulation threatens the potential to reduce death and disease caused by smoking.

The letter issued to WHO warned even though e-cigarettes contain fewer toxins, many studies have shown the products contain harmful ingredients. Recently, many studies were published highlighting the negative health effects e-cigarettes pose to users.

A study published in 2009 found e-cigarettes contain a slew of carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in anti-freeze.

WHO is assessing its position on e-cigarettes and have indicated it is leaning toward restrictions, like those placed on other nicotine-containing products, including advertising restrictions and a ban on flavors.

The agency said it is currently drafting a letter which will be issued to the 178 countries who take part in the United Nations International Convention on Tobacco that would be obliged to comply with the new regulations.

The United States does not participate in the convention. But last month the FDA announced plans to begin overseeing e-cigarettes. The regulations would restrict children under the age of 18 from being able to legally buy the products. However, the regulations did not include a plan to restrict child-appealing candy-like flavors.

Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Fox / CC by 2.0

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