The World Health Organization (WHO) is clear in its latest anti-smoking report: its real enemy is the tobacco industry, whose spearhead is the electronic cigarette, with risks yet to be discovered. To counter this, it has called for the precautionary principle.
Although solid figures cannot be put forward to assess their harm, the WHO has issued a report presented in Rio de Janeiro with a clear warning: they are “undeniably harmful, although probably less toxic than cigarettes” and should be regulated. It admits, however, that this risk remains unquantifiable and of unknown magnitude. “They are products that have become a gateway to tobacco for young people. Our recommendation to governments is to treat and regulate them as conventional tobacco products,” says Vinayak Prasad, head of WHO’s Tobacco Control Unit.
The document contains more than 200 pages that show that WHO is concerned about new electronic products marketed as “smoking cessation aids”. Its conclusions are concise: “Although some of these products emit less emissions than conventional cigarettes, they are not free of risks and their long-term impact on health and mortality is still unknown.