The WHO really can’t make it’s mind up when it comes to e cigs. On one hand it has been working tirelessly for decades trying to reduce the number of people worldwide who consume and are addicted to tobacco, yet on the other-hand when presented with a demonstrably proven tool to help people stop smoking they maintain a number of reservations.
One quote from the official report unveiled in Moscow sums up their view on e cigs quite nicely:
“an evolving frontier filled with promise and threat for tobacco control”
While at first glance that may seem promising, the fact of the matter is that it’s by far and away a universal endorsement of the potential e cigs have for helping banish tobacco to the history books. The report continues to cite major concerns over vaping being used as a replacement therapy for weaning people from smoking, as there’s contradictory and insufficient evidence that e cigs aren’t dangerous. In the meantime (i.e – likely decades) e cigs should be highly regulated and people encouraged towards existing therapies – even if they aren’t as effective.
To be fair to the WHO, in the unlikely event that in twenty years time there’s firm evidence that vaping is really bad for you, then it would be a bit of a pie in the face for them to have been endorsing people to use them. Vaping also distracts from their missionary zeal in eliminating smoking by combating nicotine addiction, fair enough but as any smoker looking to quit will tell you – it’s a complete chicken and egg situation. How can I stop smoking if I’m addicted to nicotine, and how do I end my addiction to smoking if tobacco is the only means of accessing it?
Where the WHO pulls no punches is that it advocates the classification of electronic cigarettes to be treated the same as tobacco products, for example public spaces bans and so forth – again the idea being that exposure somehow self perpetuates the problem.
Also they are firmly against e cigs being used in any medical context to help people withdraw from tobacco, citing that there’s no evidence (that word again…) that they help people stop ‘smoking’. Fact of the matter is that there’s now over 2 million people vaping in the UK who would otherwise be likely taking tobacco – is that not evidence of at least some form of progress – apparently not…
Finally much of the WHO’s critique of e cigs is that somehow they will encourage people, especially kids, to take up nicotine addiction. Well if they aren’t going to vape, what’s the alternative? Tobacco again!
It has to be understood that the WHO, for all the great work it does, has an unobtainable ideal of everyone living in perfect health well into their ripe old age. Fact is that for many millions this won’t happen, simply because tobacco will lead to their premature deaths – likely also in rather significant pain and distress. Sometimes it’s best to go with the (far) lesser evil, but only time will tell on who’s (no pun intended) right on that one.