WHO: Regulate e-cigs, control marketing to teens

I missed this a couple of weeks ago. The World Health Organization came out with a very strongly worded statement ripping e-cigs, over both their marketing and lack of regulations.

WHO, a United Nations agency, joins the American Heart Association in expressing strong concerns about the exponential growth of mostly unregulated e-cigs. WHO specifically talks about its concerns that the tobacco industry, seeing cigarettes in decline and a booming new industry in e-cigs, is getting aggressively involved in the e-cig business. (Blu E-Cigarettes, which is the No. 1 e-cig company, was purchased last year by Lorillard, which in turn is being purchased by RJ Reynolds.

In its report, released late last month, WHO specifically calls for:

* Stopping the marketing to teens

* Banning them in public places

I’m 100 percent for the FDA to control the marketing of e-cigs to teenagers, as I see this as by far the biggest problem with e-cigs. More and more kids instead of becoming addicted to nicotine through cigarettes, are becoming just as addicted to nicotine through e-cigs. And the industry has been incredibly blatant in marketing to kids. In my opinion, the FDA has this power over tobacco products because tobacco products contain a controlled substance — nicotine — and thus the agency has the same power over e-cig marketing. However, in its draft regulations on e-cigs released several months ago, the FDA completely punted on the marketing issue and instead focused on banning sales to teenagers, which to me is just a start.

I’m not so worked up about banning them in public places, at least not yet, because the effects of the e-cigs’ steam doesn’t appear to be nearly as bad as cigarette smoke (studies are mixed on this and I’m trying to keep an open mind on it.)

WHO doesn’t have any regulatory authority so its report is simply a recommendation to world governments.

Not everyone is on board with the WHO recommendations as a number of public health officials signed a letter asking WHO not to overreact and over-regulate e-cigs because of their potential health benefits of helping some smokers quit.