Flavoured vapes should be banned to stop kids getting ‘recruited and trapped’ by tobacco firms, WHO says


Governments around the world must take “decisive action” to crack down on e-cigarettes and ban flavoured vapes, the World Health Organisation said Thursday, warning they must be treated in line with other similar products as the Big Tobacco industry uses the harmful products to build legitimacy while marketing them aggressively towards children.
New Study Shows E-Cigarettes Less Dangerous Than Smoking

The WHO urged governments to crack down on vaping.

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Key Takeaways
  • “Urgent action is needed” to protect children, non-smokers and the population at large from the “alarming” health effects of e-cigarettes, the WHO said.
  • The WHO acknowledged e-cigarettes, also known as e-cigs or vapes, can play a role in helping people quit smoking, but warned the nicotine-containing products are “highly addictive” and should be tightly regulated as medicines rather than being released as consumer products on the open market.
  • Evidence shows vapes are not “effective for quitting tobacco use” at the population level when sold as a consumer product, the WHO said, adding that Big Tobacco firms have used these newer products to “get a seat at the policy-making table governments to lobby against health policies.”
  • The health agency accused the tobacco industry of using “false evidence” to promote e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool, while at the same time “continuing to sell billions of cigarettes” and marketing vapes “aggressively” towards children, teens and young people.
  • “Kids are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-cigarettes and may get hooked to nicotine,” said WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who urged countries to “protect their citizens” and enact “strict measures to prevent uptake.”
  • Countries already banning the sale of e-cigarettes should beef up enforcement and continue to support public health efforts to cut tobacco use, the WHO said, advising countries that allow vapes to be sold commercially to tax them, ban flavoured versions, limit the concentration and quality of nicotine allowed and take steps to “reduce their appeal.”
Key Background

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to form a vapor that is breathed in. Typically, this liquid will contain nicotine, the compound that makes things like cigarettes addictive. Evidence suggests electronic cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking as they do not produce many of the most dangerous chemicals associated with burning tobacco, such as carbon monoxide and tar, and that they can be used as a tool to help people manage cravings and quit smoking for good. Amid growing backlash to smoking worldwide, tobacco giants like Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco have deftly pivoted business models towards smokeless products like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco as the future of the industry and face new competition from upstarts like Juul.

The industry, which has a documented history of downplaying or disputing evidence showing its products cause harm, has reportedly bristled at the WHO’s opposition to vapes and similar products, slamming it as a missed opportunity to cut down on smoking. Tobacco kills around 8 million people each year, according to the WHO, which says “the tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced.” Around 1.3 million of these deaths are the result of second-hand smoke exposure.

Big Number

$462 million. That’s how much e-cigarette maker Juul Labs in April agreed to pay to settle claims it had marketed its products to minors in six U.S. states. The company has now settled for more than $1 billion with 45 states and did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

What We Don’t Know

The long-term health effects of vaping are not known. While clearly less harmful than smoking—an activity the CDC says “harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general”—vaping is far from harmless. The WHO said vaping has been shown to create “toxic substances, some of which are known to cause cancer and some that increase the risk of heart and lung disorders” and their use can affect brain development and lead to learning disorders. Vaping can also impact fetal development if used during pregnancy and also “poses risks to bystanders.” The WHO has maintained for years that vaping products are not safe. Their stance is in line with the organization’s long-standing opposition to the tobacco industry, which it says “profits from destroying health.”

Crucial Quote

“There is an alarming increase in the use of e-cigarettes among children and young people with rates exceeding adult use in many countries,” said Ruediger Krech, WHO Director for Health Promotion. Companies “target children through social media and influencers,” the wide variety of flavours on offer (at least 16,000) and by having cartoon characters and “sleek designs” on the products, Krech said.

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