The World Health Organization (WHO) has been a vocal critic of e-cigarettes and other non-combustible tobacco delivery systems (NCTDs). The organisation has argued that these products are harmful and should be regulated as tightly as cigarettes.
However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that NCTDs can be a less harmful alternative to smoking. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2020, titled Nicotine replacement therapy and risk of death from smoking-related diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis, found that NCTDs were associated with a 56% reduction in the risk of death from smoking-related diseases.
The WHO's stance on NCTDs is based on the assumption that these products are equally harmful as cigarettes. However, this assumption is not supported by evidence. The NCTDs do not produce smoke, which is one of the most harmful components of tobacco smoke. They also do not contain tar or other carcinogens.
In addition, NCTDs can be a stepping stone to eliminating cigarettes altogether. Some people who use NCTDs eventually taper off nicotine.
The WHO's current strategies for tobacco control have not been effective in reducing smoking rates globally. In fact, smoking rates have been increasing in some parts of the world. This suggests that the WHO needs to adopt a new approach to tobacco control.
Reduction of tobacco harm should be a pillar of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC should be amended to allow for the regulation of NCTDs in a way that minimizes their harm.
NCTDs have the potential to be a valuable tool in the fight against tobacco addiction. If used responsibly, they could help millions of people quit smoking and improve their health. In 2017, the Polish government announced that it would not be implementing the WHO's guidelines on e-cigarettes. The government argued that the guidelines were too restrictive and would not allow for the development of safe and effective e-cigarettes.
The Polish government has argued that the WHO's stance is based on prejudice, not science.
The debate over e-cigarettes is complex and there is no easy answer. However, the evidence suggests that NCTDs can be a less harmful alternative to smoking. If used responsibly, they could help millions of people leave smoking behind and improve their health.
The WHO should reconsider its stance on NCTDs and allow for their regulation in a way that minimises their harm. This would allow for the development of safe and effective NCTDs that could help smokers improve their health.