WHO warns about the perils of e-cigarettes & nicotine products

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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Electronic or e-cigarettes and similar devices are harmful to health and must be regulated to curb the tobacco industry from using “criminal” tactics to get young people addicted to nicotine, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned.

Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, stated in the latest WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2021, which focused on new and emerging products, that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) should be tightly regulated for maximum public health protection.

Tedros Adhanom
Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“Nicotine is highly addictive. Where they are not banned, governments should adopt appropriate policies to protect their populations from the harms of ENDS, and to prevent their uptake by children, adolescents and other vulnerable groups.”

ENDS makers frequently target youngsters with thousands of tantalizing flavors, calculated to be 16,000, according to the UN health agency’s eighth annual study.

Dr. Vinayak Prasad, who heads the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, said, “targeting children with toxic and poisonous products is a criminal act. They run the risk of being addicted for the rest of their lives. It’s the most criminal act and a human rights violation.”

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WHO has recommended six MPOWER strategies such as Monitoring tobacco use and prevention measures, Protecting people from cigarette smoke, Offering aid to quit, Warning about the dangers of tobacco, Enforcing bans on advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and Raising tobacco taxes.

Mr. Michael R. Bloomberg, WHO’s Global Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries said, “More than 1 billion people around the world still smoke. And as cigarette sales have fallen, tobacco companies have been aggressively marketing new products like e-cigarettes and heated-tobacco products and lobbied governments to limit their regulation. Their goal is simple, to hook another generation on nicotine. We can’t let that happen.”

According to reports, the selling of ENDS is currently prohibited in 32 countries. A further 79 have taken at least one partial measure prohibiting the use of these products in public places, banning their advertising, promotion, or sponsorship, or mandating the display of health warnings on the packaging. This still leaves 84 countries where they are free or unregulated.

Tobacco Products
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Dr. Rüdiger Krech, Director of the Health Promotion Department at WHO warned that “Sometimes these products are marketed as ‘nicotine-free’ but, when tested, are often found to contain the addictive ingredient. Distinguishing the nicotine-containing products from the non-nicotine, or even from some tobacco-containing products, can be almost impossible.”

In most countries, the proportion of people who use tobacco has dropped, but due to population growth, the total number of people who smoke has remained stubbornly high. Currently, over 80 percent of the global smokers estimated at 1 billion, live in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Tobacco kills 8 million people every year, with 1 million of them dying from secondhand smoke.

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