Wednesday, October 24, 2012

World Health Organization Urges Countries to Ban Electronic Cigarettes Because if They are Not Banned, Smokers Might Use Them

The World Health Organization is urging countries to ban electronic cigarettes, rather than merely regulate them, because if not banned, smokers may use these products in attempts to quit smoking.

In a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report on electronic cigarettes from the Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, WHO states:

"Parties may wish to consider that as ENDS [electronic cigarettes] are new products resembling tobacco products that would maintain a nicotine addiction, regulating them rather than banning them could grant these new products a level of legitimacy in terms of market access, even though they may be subject to the provisions of the WHO FCTC or to regulation as medical products. Parties may wish to consider that admitting such new products would not support the objective of the WHO FCTC as stated in Article 3, which is to “… reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use …”."

The Rest of the Story

This is the second serving of complete crap from the World Health Organization in two days. Yesterday, I revealed that the WHO is urging countries to ban electronic cigarettes because their use normalizes smoking. I showed how ridiculous that statement is because it is smoking that normalizes smoking, not quitting smoking.

Today, I expose the WHO's recommendation that countries ban electronic cigarettes because if not banned, smokers might actually use these products to try to quit smoking and that would lead to an increase in smoking.

This is the stupidest and most convoluted argument I have heard from the World Health Organization since yesterday.

How could quitting smoking or reducing the amount of cigarette consumption using electronic cigarettes increase the prevalence of tobacco use? This would only be the case if either: (1) youth were using electronic cigarettes and then switching to real ones; or (2) smokers who would otherwise have quit are using electronic cigarettes, but not as complete substitutes for smoking.

There is absolutely no evidence to support either contention. First, there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes are becoming popular among youth or that a single nonsmoking youth has ever become addicted to smoking because he or she started using electronic cigarettes.

Second, there is no evidence that smokers who would otherwise have quit smoking completely are using electronic cigarettes as an alternative to quitting. In fact, there is strong evidence that the opposite is true. The majority of electronic cigarette users are smokers who have been unable to quit via other means - including the NRT and other drugs that the WHO recommends in lieu of electronic cigarettes.

The truth is that even among smokers who are unmotivated to quit, 54% of those who tried electronic cigarettes either quit or cut down on their cigarette consumption by more than one half. Thus, the World Health Organization's argument is fallacious. The use of electronic cigarettes clearly results in a reduction in smoking. How could the WHO argue that making electronic cigarettes available is going to increase smoking.

Clearly, the WHO is not interested in objectively viewing the scientific evidence. I don't even think the WHO is interested in subjectively viewing the scientific evidence. It appears that they simply don't care about the scientific evidence at all.

For the WHO, it is all about ideology, not about scientific evidence or actual effects on health.

While in theory, some sort of international tobacco control treaty could be effective in reducing the burden of tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, I am becoming afraid that in the hands of the World Health Organization, such a treaty is unworkable because the WHO is more interested in promoting ideology than health.

Not only do I now believe that the continued implementation of FCTC under the auspices of the WHO could be detrimental rather than helpful to the public's health, but I am convinced that the WHO has already caused substantial public health damage.

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