When the World Health Organization finally issued a public statement about electronic cigarettes, the whole world took their stance seriously. But a group of health experts from London is now claiming that the WHO lied and misrepresented the actual facts about how electronic cigarettes impact public health. In an official rebuttal to the WHO’s statements on vaping, the experts claimed that ecigs are far from the enemy. Instead, they believe e-cigarettes could potentially save 50,000 lives per year.
Contributors to the rebuttal came from several highly acclaimed institutions including the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University College London, the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University, and the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London. These health experts teamed up to publicly confront the WHO for statements that they claim were erroneous and potentially damaging.
The rebuttal addressed several specific statements the WHO issued last week in their official stance on electronic cigarettes. The WHO alleged that much is still unknown about ecigs and they encouraged people to use extreme caution. They also pushed for immediate and strict regulation on vaping worldwide. However, the health experts argued that harsh regulation would be counterproductive when current research shows that for every one million smokers that trade tobacco for ecigs, there are 6,000 premature deaths prevented per year. In fact, based on known data, the experts claim that if every smoker in England switched to vaping, there would be 50,000 lives saved every single year.
London health experts also challenged the WHO claims that ecigs could act as a gateway to smoking for youth. Scientific evidence shows that this is simply not true. Surveys have repeatedly shown that it is primarily smokers that use e-cigs and less than one percent of teens that report trying ecigs have never tried a cigarette.
While the WHO wants to see ecigs banned indoors for fear that they could emit harmful toxins, the health experts point out that research has thoroughly proven that there is no dangerous secondhand risk from electronic cigarettes. In fact, breathing in secondhand ecig vapor is no more harmful than breathing in city air while walking down the street.
The WHO also expressed grave concern that ecigs might prevent smokers from ever being fully nicotine-free, but the health experts once again said this is false and misleading. In reality, studies show that ecigs are just as effective as nicotine replacement therapies sold in many pharmacies around the world.
All things considered, the London health experts said the WHO was mostly igniting fear and preying on innocent people that have not read the actual scientific research that supports ecigs for smoking cessation. Profession Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University said the WHO’s remarks could be extremely damaging if people do not hear the truth. “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 explained.
At University College London, Professor Robert West also said he was frustrated with the World Health Organization for making claims that were “puritanical” and “ridiculous”. He sad there is a large stack of evidence that supports vaping as a fantastic tool for smoking cessation. “This is about smokers who are killing themselves. Everyday they carry on smoking they lose six hours of life expectancy,” West said. “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.”
At King’s College London, Professor Ann NcNeill also spoke with visible anger about the WHO statements. “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,” she told the press. “It will restrict marketing and the strength of the products which will take off the market some products that help smokers quit.”
NcNeill went on to say that ecigs are obviously working for many smokers in London that couldn’t quit otherwise. In fact, some NHS clinics have even begun to include ecigs in smoking cessation programs after seeing such positive results. With mounting evidence that electronic cigarettes are effective and minimize risks to public health, it’s time to stop making ecigs the enemy based purely on personal biases and claims of “unknown” risks. When tens of thousands of lives are hanging in the balance, do we proceed based on opinion or science? The health experts insist that it’s time to look at the research and give ecigs a chance.