WHO Condemned on Vaping Report as "Alarmist" and "Ridiculous"

Back in April there was a surge in anti-vaping articles and opinions, and many of these said the same things, such as there is no evidence they help people quit, and some have taken on a near hysterical tone such as on possible dangers indoors and claiming they should be banned. Some of these articles repeated assertions which had been strongly contradicted by earlier good quality research, which they clearly ignored, including large studies and detailed reviews of the evidence, and so were quite biased. Since then, however, some key official reports, studies and a fightback by others in the scientific community has emerged!

Let's look at the latest, balanced opinions by researchers which have no incentive to come out on the side of e-cigarettes or tobacco, which have come out scathingly against the existing alarmism and spoken, unusually for dry public scientists, sarcastically about the quality of analysis used by those calling for bans:

“Given that smokers smoke primarily for the nicotine but die primarily from the tar, one might imagine that e-cigarettes would be welcomed as a means to prevent much of the death and suffering caused by cigarettes,” said Prof Robert West, author of a new report published in the British Journal of General Practice which suggests that 6000 lives could be saved for every million smokers. This would translate to 54,000 lives if all 9 million UK smokers switched completely to vaping products.

The report appeared only days after the World Health Organisation claimed e-cigarettes should be banned indoors and tightly regulated. Intriguingly, there is evidence that e-cigarettes have overtaken nicotine replacement therapy which is offered by large corporations and pharmaceutical companies and is more expensive than vaping, and so perhaps this may explain where this bizarre lobbying seems to be coming from.

At about the same time another report appeared echoing the views of Prof Robert West at UCL. In this one experts from the National Addiction Centre at King's College London and the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, published a scathing rebuttal to the WHO claims in the respected Journal Addiction.

The Telegraph provided the following comments:

The WHO also said e-cigarettes contain toxins, the health effects are unknown and they should be banned indoors, but the group said the amounts are tiny and similar to that breathed in when walking down a city street.

Finally they said the WHO assertion that e-cigarettes prevent people from giving up cigarettes is not true and that they are actually as helpful as buying nicotine replacement patches from the chemist.

Prof Peter Hajek, from Queen Mary University said: "These WHO recommendations are actually detrimental to public health.

"E-cigarettes could have a revolutionary effect on public health if smokers switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes."

He said banning them would be akin to saying everyone should keep an open fire in every room of their own in winter because central heating systems may malfunction.

He added that e-cigarettes should be made cheaper than their alternative and they should be permitted in public places where cigarettes are not.

Prof Robert West from UCL said the WHO recommendations were 'puritanical' and 'ridiculous' and did not represent the current evidence on safety or use of e-cigarettes.

He said the evidence shows that smoking rates are continuing to drop as use of e-cigarettes grew, that use of e-cigarettes amongst those who have never smoked is less than 0.2 per cent and using an e-cigarette to help stop smoking is more effective than cold turkey or buying nicotine replacement therapy over the counter, although the NHS stop smoking services still offer the best hope of quitting.

He said: "This is about smokers who are killing themselves. Every day they carry on smoking they lose six hours of life expectancy.

"England has one of the most liberal regimes in terms of e-cigarettes use in the world so if there was going to be a problem it would be here.

"I completely understand concerns about potential risks from this phenomenon but it is vital that public health experts separate opinion from evidence."

Prof Ann NcNeill from King's College London said: "The fact that in England we are not looking to ban e-cigarettes in public places is right and in line with the evidence. But I think there are still concerns about the implications of the European Tobacco Directive.

"It will restrict marketing and the strength of the products which will take off the market some products that help smokers to quit."

She said due to demand from smokers some NHS stop smoking clinics were including e-cigarettes in their quit programmes.

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