| NEW YORK, June 16
NEW YORK, June 16 A group of 129 physicians,
epidemiologists and others from 31 countries sent an open letter
to the World Health Organization on Monday urging the United
Nations agency to hold firm in what seems to be its intention to
impose strict regulations on electronic cigarettes.
The letter was a response to one sent last month by 53 other
experts who urged the WHO to go easy on e-cigarettes, which the
advocates called "part of the solution" in the fight against
The latest letter, in contrast, said manufacturers should be
required to present data that show the products are safe and
help smokers quit, and disclose ingredients in the "vaping"
liquid the devices burn.
Regulating e-cigarettes like tobacco products, the
signatories wrote, is necessary to "prevent initiation of use
among youth and other non-tobacco users, protect bystanders in
public areas from involuntary exposure, regulate marketing, and
prohibit unsubstantiated claims."
E-cigarettes use battery-powered cartridges to produce a
nicotine hit via inhalable vapor without the tar and other
carcinogens in inhaled tobacco smoke. Advocates said classifying
e-cigarettes as tobacco products, and requiring comparable
regulation, would threaten their potential to reduce the death
and disease caused by smoking.
Their letter said e-cigarettes "could be among the most
significant health innovations of the 21st century," adding that
"the urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products
should be resisted."
It remains unclear whether most e-cigarette consumers will
be smokers using the devices to quit or non-smokers to whom they
are a "gateway" product to nicotine addiction and smoking. One
study published last month in the journal Circulation reported
that most e-cigarette consumers are "dual users," both smoking
The letter from opponents warned that although e-cigarette
vapor has fewer toxic components than regular smoke, more than
half a dozen studies have shown it can include ultrafine
particles damaging to lungs, plus "carcinogens and reproductive
toxins, including benzene, lead, nickel, and others."
The letter was organized by tobacco scientist Stanton Glantz
of the University of California, San Francisco, and others. One
signatory did not want to be named, explaining in an email to
Reuters that "I and my family have been receiving abuse and
threats" over his critical stance on e-cigarettes.
The email added: "my daughter has been subject to online
abuse" over the issue.
The WHO is assessing its position on e-cigarettes, and has
indicated it is leaning toward restrictions like those on all
nicotine-containing products, including banning advertising and
The United States is not among the 178 countries that are
parties to an international convention on tobacco and are
obligated to implement measures recommended by the WHO.
In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed
regulations on e-cigarettes that would ban sales to minors but
not online sales, flavors, or advertising.
(Reporting by Sharon Begley; Editing by David Gregorio)