In a salvo of Twitter messages, the World Health Organization (WHO) has disseminated false and misleading information about electronic cigarettes.
First, WHO states that there is "no" scientific evidence supporting the contention that electronic cigarettes can help someone quit smoking.
Second, WHO states that there are no approved smoking cessation devices that deliver nicotine to the lungs in a similar way to electronic cigarettes.
The specific claims were as follows:
"E-cigarettes are often touted as tobacco replacements, smoking
alternatives or smoking cessation aids, however no scientific evidence
"None of the approved, regulated smoking cessation aids, e.g. nicotine
patches, chewing-gum, delivers nicotine to the lungs like e-cigarettes."
The Rest of the Story
The first claim is false because there is substantial scientific evidence that electronic cigarettes can be effective as a cigarette replacement or smoking cessation aid. First, there are a multitude of anecdotal reports and testimonials. Second, there is abundant survey evidence. Third, there are now two clinical trials showing that these devices can aid smoking cessation even among smokers who have no interest in quitting.
So it is a lie to claim that there is "no" scientific evidence.
The second claim is false because the nicotine inhaler is an approved, regulated smoking cessation aid that delivers nicotine to the lungs in a similar manner as electronic cigarettes. Like electronic cigarettes, most of the nicotine is absorbed in the mouth and upper airway, but some of it is delivered to the lungs.
So it is a lie to claim that no approved smoking cessation device delivers nicotine to the lungs.
I can understand the reasons why electronic cigarettes are controversial. However, I cannot condone dishonesty as a strategy to promote one's position on this issue. The World Health Organization is entitled to its opinion about whether electronic cigarettes should be promoted as a smoking cessation strategy. However, it is not entitled to lie to the public to promote its position.
Sadly, what the WHO is encouraging - with lies - is the return of ex-smokers to smoking. The WHO is not only lying, but those lies are protecting the tobacco industry and the pharmaceutical industry.
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