The Anti-Media | Emerson Rensink
Calling e-cigarettes “possibly among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century,” a group of the world’s top scientists issued a statement to the U.N. Thursday advising against placing harsh restrictions on the electronic smoking devices. Thumbnail credit: nbcbayarea.com
The move comes in light of a recently-leaked memo from the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It revealed the council, with 178 countries participating, considered classifying e-cigarettes as tobacco products, thus subjecting them to the same regulations as traditional cigarettes.
Fifty-three scientists from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America responded by writing an open letter to the WHO Director General Margaret Chan asserting that e-cigarettes are a boon to fighting the worldwide health epidemic of smoking, not a “threat” as the council fears.
The letter’s authors called e-cigarettes “part of the solution… perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives,” and that “the urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted.”
The scientists went on to say: “Policies should be evidence-based and proportionate to risk, and give due weight to the significant reductions in risk that are achieved when a smoker switches to a low risk nicotine product,” which they clearly believe e-cigarettes to be.
However, critics of e-cigarettes point to the fact that they are a relatively new technology, and no research exists examining possible long-term health effects.
According to a report by Reuters, between March 2013 and March 2014, the FDA received more than 50 health complaints by e-cigarette users. Issues included burns, nicotine toxicity, respiratory and cardiovascular problems. However, the report notes that these health problems “were not necessarily caused by e-cigarettes.”
This isn’t the first time international experts have spoken out in defense of e-cigarettes. Last year, 10 French medical professionals protested a possible EU re-classification of the “infinitely safer” smoking devices as medical products, which would have made them available only at pharmacies.
Among the letter’s signers were a tobaccologist, cardiologist, neurologist and other specialists that pay special attention to the health risks of smoking traditional cigarettes.
In the doctors’ letter to the EU parliament, they called smoking tobacco “the most serious public health problem in the world.” On the purported dangers of e-cigarettes, they asserted: “It is the burning of tobacco that’s dangerous to the health of smokers, not the nicotine… The dangers of electronic cigarettes are much lower than those of tobacco, since their vapor contains no CO or tar, or fine particles.”
While they acknowledged the lack of long-term studies on the health effects of e-cigarettes, they urged the EU to compare that somewhat unknown safety to “the absolute certainty of the dangers of tobacco.”
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Emerson Rensink is an Olympia-trans*planted activist, organizer and citizen journalist. He helped organize the global March Against Monsanto in May 2013. In addition to writing for The Anti-Media, Emerson’s work can be found at Center for a Stateless Society. In his free time, Emerson likes to watch depressing documentaries and find funny, pointless things on the Internet.