Public Health Orgs Are Weighing In on E-Cigarettes

The AHA is neutral on e-cigarettes in U.S., but the WHO wants to ban them indoors

Nathan ALLIARD/Photononstop/Corbis

With the market for e-cigarettes now worth around $2 billion, it's clear that plenty of people aren't particularly worried about exactly what these highly unregulated nicotine-delivery devices are doing to their bodies. But public health officials are scrambling to figure out the health implications. This week, two large health organizations, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) both issued statements about their perspective on e-cigarettes. 

The WHO’s statement, as Gizmodo reports, was the more definitive of the two. The U.N.'s health agency is urging increased regulations, including banning the use of e-cigs indoors, regulating the content of the liquids used and banning flavors that can appeal to children. 

The AHA’s policy statement was more cautious. Heart health—or lack thereof—has been clearly linked to smoking regular old cigarettes. In the case of e-cigarettes, the group cited the need for more information in an area that is sorely lacking in research.  

One open question, for instance, is whether e-cigs can help smokers quit. The AHA’s statement addressed that question specifically: The organization's take seems to be that, in this case, e-cigarettes are the lesser of two evils. Here's what the author of the report, Aruni Bhatnagar, told Bloomberg

“If people cannot quit at all and have tried everything in the field, we would not discourage them…It’s not something that we would suggest. We do not know for sure and the jury is still out whether or not these e-cigarettes are safe to use, so we do not say that they’re safe,”

Neither report is a final word on the safety of e-cigarettes, but their statements could be used by countries currently considering how to regulate e-cigarettes. The FDA has yet to issue a final ruling on the product, but the agency has released a proposed rule, which would allow e-cigarettes to be regulated like other tobacco products. 

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