Ban E-Cigarettes, Say Both W.H.O. and E.U.

Both the World Health Organization [W.H.O.] and the European Union [EU] are calling for a ban on electronic cigarettes, sometimes called e-cigarettes, citing the dangers and lack of any proven health benefits
By: Professor John Banzhaf, GWU Law School
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Oct. 24, 2012 - PRLog -- WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 24, 2012): Both the World Health Organization [W.H.O.] and the European Union [EU] are calling for a ban on electronic cigarettes, sometimes called e-cigarettes, citing both the potential dangers and the lack of any evidence that they serve a valid health purpose, reports John Banzhaf, the public interest law professor whose legal actions prompted the EU to crack down on cigarette advertising.

        Qater has just banned e-cigarettes, apparently based on the W.H.O.'s recommendation.

        If either or both organizations are effective in persuading more countries to join in banning the product, it could also affect how the U.S.'s Food and Drug Administration [FDA] finally decides to treat e-cigarettes and similar devices, suggests Prof. Banzhaf, who prompted the FDA and several state's attorneys general to take legal action against this novel product.

        A strong push to ban e-cigarettes around the world will come when delegates to a convention charged with enforcing the world's first antismoking treaty – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control [FCTC] –  meet in Seoul, Korea, in November.  Banzhaf has had a major role in bringing the FCTC into effect.

        A report issued by the Convention Secretariat to the body, which represents 176 countries containing 88% of the world's population, is very critical of e-cigarettes.

        Entitled "Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, Including Electronic Cigarettes," it argues that e-cigarettes may present serious dangers and no health advantages, and may violate the spirit if not the letter of the FCTC.

        Similarly, the still-secret but now-leaked working document of the EU's Tobacco Product Directive [TPD] recommends a ban on the marketing of all smokeless products containing nicotine, saying: "Only NCP [nicotine-containing products] that are authorized as medicinal products on the basis of their quality, safety and efficacy, and with a positive benefit/risk balance are allowed on the market. Otherwise, marketing of NCP is banned."

        Some of the specifics of the TPD recommendations, including conventional cigarettes, provide:
* a complete prohibition of all types of smokeless tobacco in all EU countries (except Sweden where Snus could still be sold)
* a complete prohibition of all e-cigarettes, otherwise known as electronic cigarettes
* a ban on using menthol and other flavorings in cigarettes
* standards requiring all cigarettes to be a uniform length, thickness, and color
* a prohibition on the display by shops of more than one variety of each brand
* graphic health warnings covering 75% of the surface of cigarette packs

        Banzhaf suggests that what the EU and FCTC countries do could have a profound effect on how the FDA finally decides to regulate e-cigarettes in the U.S.

        "After all, if most of the world regards any nicotine delivery device, other than those providing medical benefits, to be a danger to the public health, it would seem incongruous and inconsistent for the U.S.  – which has been a leader in many antismoking areas – not to crack down on e-cigarettes, and to provide them with an implied regulatory approval."

        Several U.S. jurisdictions have already enacted legislation dealing with e-cigarettes, and the product’s sale is already banned in many countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, and Taiwan, and restricted in others like Finland, Malaysia, and Singapore.

        Recently, USA Today reported on a variety of dangers presented by e-cigarettes, including damage to the lungs of users, and potential hazards to bystanders forced to inhale the nicotine-laden vapors.

        It also reported:  "'There's a danger e-cigarettes could lure in kids who might not otherwise smoke,' says anti-smoking activist John Banzhaf, a professor at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. He pushed for the Food and Drug Administration to regulate them."

        In July, a new study of electronic cigarettes [sometimes called ENDS] – in one of the "100 Most Influential Journals in Biology and Medicine" – also concluded that the product should be banned: "Given the widespread availability, awareness, and use of ENDS by millions of consumers, ENDS should not be marketed until adequately tested and regulated by the FDA."

        One of the authors of the article from the "American Journal of Public Health" concludes that: "Until adequate research and regulation is in place, smokers should be wary of using e-cigarettes, and smokers who want to quit should, instead, pursue research-proven effective cessation tools, such as nicotine replacement products, telephone quit lines and Web-based cessation services, as well as non-nicotine pharmacotherapies like bupropion and varenicline."

        Another author highlighted the dangers of e-cigarettes to kids who, somewhat like young children years ago who were tempted to begin smoking by candy cigarettes, might be enticed to try e-cigarettes and become hooked on the nicotine: "The data suggest that younger smokers are more likely to have ever tried an e-cigarette" . . .  We don't know why younger smokers are more likely to try e-cigarettes, but this highlights the need for more information on the health and behavioral consequences of exclusive 'vaping' and dual use [using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes] with combustible tobacco products."

        In other words, says Prof. Banzhaf, ENDS may act like candy cigarettes on steroids, because, in addition to mimicking the appearance of smoking as candy cigarettes do, they also provide a powerful kick from the highly addictive drug nicotine, and give off a smoke-like vapor which can fool observers.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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Washington, DC 20052, USA
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