Members of the World Health Organisation (WHO) have suggested the e-cigarettes should be regulated in the same manner as normal tobacco.
According to minutes seen by the Financial Times, Dr Haik Nikogosian, head of the convention’s secretariat, said that e-cigarettes “could result in a new wave of the tobacco epidemic.” He added that “more importance should be given to the threat posed by electronic cigarettes.”
The secretariat thinks that e-cigarettes should be classed as tobacco products if they contain nicotine from tobacco leaves. Most e-cigarettes would fit this classification, meaning they will face the same restrictions and high taxes as conventional cigarettes.
Restrictions on tobacco products vary by country, but many states have measures such as advertising bans, limits on smoking in public places, regulations on packaging and high excise duties.
Such restrictions on e-cigarettes would almost certainly stop their rapid growth in popularity.
These suggestions come despite scant evidence that e-cigarettes cause any harm, with some studies even suggesting the opposite.
A 2013 study published in the Lancet medical journal, for example, concluded that e-cigarettes are “modestly effective at helping smokers to quit”. They found that e-cigarette users were more likely to cut their cigarette consumption than users of traditional nicotine patches, and more likely to halve their tobacco consumption if they did not quit all together.
Yet attacks on e-cigarettes from regulators and politicians continue. Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford earlier this month called for a ban on people using e-cigarettes in public places for fear that they may “normalise” smoking and act as a “gateway” to conventional tobacco.
America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also called for e-cigarettes to be regulated in the same way as conventional tobacco, after a Democrat-led congressional inquiry accused manufacturers of targeting their product at children.