Scientists Argue E-cigarettes Could Save Lives Of Millions Of Smokers June 15, 2014 07:24

World Health Organization

In their open letter addressed to the World Health Organization (WHO), scientists from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia have argued that e-cigarettes have a key role to play in raging a war against smoking. More than 50 experts from the fields of public health as well as nicotine studies, including 5 people from Canada, advised WHO against classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco-based products. According to these experts, it would endanger an innovation of great significance from being beneficial in saving the lives of millions of people around the world.

In the letter, the experts wrote that e-cigarettes must be considered as one of the most significant developments in the 21st century as far as health-related innovations are concerned. They also urged the authorities to resist the temptation to classify them under tobacco products.

However, documents pertaining to a meeting held last November that leaked out show that WHO’s view seems to be trending towards treating e-cigarettes as a threat and classifying them as tobacco cigarettes.

David Sweanor, one of the experts who signed the letter, is a professor in law at the University of Ottawa. He also puts in a lot of work in the field of tobacco control. He said in an interview that the goal is to try and eliminate cigarettes, or make them obsolete, with the help of the powerful technology that we have in our hands. According to Sweanor, it could lead us to one of the key achievements that we have ever had in the field of public health.

The writers of the letter refer to what is called “tobacco harm reduction”. They wrote that the 1.3 billion smokers around the world could do a great deal of less harm to their bodies by consuming nicotine in the non-combustible form. It is a proven fact that inhalation of toxic gases and tar into the lungs is responsible for causing a vast majority of harm to the smoker’s health.

This is what British Lung Foundation CEO Penny Woods had to say in response to the experts’ letter: “It is not clear as to how the use of e-cigarettes will impact the health of its users. Though they may serve as a key tool that helps people quit smoking, e-cigarettes are currently unregulated and this could cause a lot of problems.”

Sweanor also said that e-cigarettes are being used mainly by people who want to give up smoking, according to research studies and that there is little evidence to show that young people are using them to start smoking.

Anti-smoking Campaign Progress – Do Electronic-cigarettes and related devises Pose a Threat?

Nova Scotia’s plan is to bring in a new legislation during the fall season which will put a ban on selling e-cigarettes to people below 19 years of age.

Nova Scotia health minister Leo Glavine categorically said that the province had seen a tremendous increase in cancer cases and deaths due to smoking. The province, therefore, does not want to encourage the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco juices.

E-Cigarettes – Health Canada Continues to Advise Against Their Use

A Health Canada spokesman said in an email that advertising and selling e-cigarette products including e-liquids containing nicotine, is not in compliance with the Food and Drugs Act and it is, therefore, illegal to do that.

“As of today, the evidence available to prove that e-cigarettes are of great help in getting Canadians to give up smoking is insufficient. E-cigarette makers should present evidence and show that it is safe and effective if they want to get their products authorized. In the absence of scientific evidence, Health Canada is forced to advise the Canadians, especially the youth, to avoid using these products,” the spokesman wrote in the email.

Health Canada has even issued cease and desist letters to retailers of Electronic cigarettes in Canada as some retailers started making claims of health benefits, according to several e-cig business owners. They added that "the letter submitted to WHO by the scientists gives them a lot of hope". Theye also said that "it is the best thing to happen for the e-cigarettes business as it handles all of the misinformation that is out there".

The scientists said that they wanted to pass on their message to WHO which is all set to review its recommendations on tobacco between October 13th and 18th this year in Moscow.