Expatica news

Electronic cigarette no therapy for smokers

23 September 2008

GENEVA — Companies marketing electronic cigarettes should stop claiming the product is a safe and effective anti-smoking therapy, the World Health Organisation said Friday.

Unlike other nicotine replacements, the electronic cigarettes lack scientific evidence to confirm their efficacy, said Douglas Bettcher, who directs the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative.

"The World Health Organisation does not consider the electronic cigarette to be a legitimate nicotine replacement therapy," he said.

The devices, which resemble real cigarettes and are powered by rechargeable batteries, produce a nicotine mist that is absorbed in the lungs. The cigarettes, made of steel, have a chamber for storing liquid nicotine in different concentrations.

"It is of great concern that certain manufacturers of these cigarettes around the world have included WHO’s name, for example on their Web (sites) or on their package inserts or on their advertisements, as having endorsed these products," Bettcher said.

No tests have been made to find out exactly what the nicotine cartridges contain, he said.

"Also there’s no experience in pharmacology yet of nicotine replacement therapies which actually inhale nicotine into the lungs," he said.

Replacement therapies that have been proven safe use patches for slow delivery through the skin, or candy for absorption in the mouth, he said.

Inhalers and nasal sprays also have been approved, Bettcher said, all of which have gone through tests and clinical trials, Bettcher said.

The agency sent letters to the manufacturers asking them to remove WHO’s name and logo from their marketing material, Bettcher said. He declined to name the companies but said the electronic cigarette was invented by a Hong Kong-based company.

It is sold in China, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Finland, Israel, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey, he said. And many are sold on the Internet, avoiding import regulations, he said.

Bettcher said an electronic cigarette with battery and a few nicotine cartridges can be bought in Bulgaria for about EUR 70, he said.

"We’ve informed respective governments as well, to take the appropriate action to make sure that these companies remove our name from any of their promotional materials," said Bettcher.

The WHO might take legal action against manufacturers who do not remove the agency’s name, he said.

Countries’ regulatory authorities have started looking into the devices, he said. Turkey has decided to suspend the sales of them, he said.

[AP / Expatica]