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Globally, the playing field appears to be changing fast for the e cigarette.
Not so long ago, these devices were lauded as a groundbreaking new solution to the menace of smoking and as the perfect tool to help long term smokers quit their dangerous habit. But recently a shift of opinion appears to be dividing the e cigarette community.
Among the key global players taking the fight to e cigarette manufacturers, raising questions regarding their safety, is the World Health Organisation (WHO), obviously a massive voice within the debate.
The WHO’s official line on the controversy, as of July 2013, reads: ‘The safety of ENDS has not been scientifically demonstrated.’ WHO defines e cigarettes as, ‘Electronic nicotine delivery systems,’ (ENDS).
‘The potential risks they pose for the health of users remain undetermined.’ continues the WHO. ‘Furthermore, scientific testing indicates that the products vary widely in the amount of nicotine and other chemicals they deliver and there is no way for consumers to find out what is actually delivered by the product they have purchased.’
Plainly the WHO’s stance points to the need for regulation within the industry, primarily for the benefit of vapers themselves. However, there is an issue with this. Regulation is expensive, challenging to implement and often impossible to deliver fairly within a planetary marketplace. Thus vapers in certain parts of the world risk being penalised on price, or even on whether they can use e cigarettes at all, whilst others may be free to vape as they choose, potentially harming their health but enjoying their freedom to do so.
There are other issues. E cigarettes had been proven to help smokers quit. Might regulation seriously undermine the global fight against cancer and other diseases which stem from cigarettes, cigars and pipes?
‘Most ENDS contain large concentrations of propylene glycol, which is a known irritant when inhaled.’ argues the WHO. It says: ‘The testing of some of these products also suggests the presence of other toxic chemicals, aside from nicotine’
‘In addition, use of these products, when they contain nicotine, can pose a risk for nicotine poisoning, i.e. if a child of 30 Kilos of weight swallows the contents of a nicotine cartridge of 24 mg this could cause acute nicotine poisoning that most likely would cause its death, and a risk for addiction to non-smokers of tobacco products.’
The bad news for manufacturers of e cigarettes does not end here. The WHO also advises that, describing ENDS, ‘The potential risks they pose for the health of users remain undetermined. Furthermore, scientific testing indicates that the products vary widely in the amount of nicotine and other chemicals they deliver and there is no way for consumers to find out what is actually delivered by the product they have purchased.
In its conclusion on the subject the WHO suggests that, ‘Until such time as a given ENDS is deemed safe and effective and of acceptable quality by a competent national regulatory body, consumers should be strongly advised not to use any of these products, including electronic cigarettes.’
Given this endorsement of regulation from such a well-respected body, it seems almost inevitable that regulation is on the way. As it stands, a number of countries have pre-empted the potential regulations, such as Singapore.
‘In Singapore, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are currently prohibited under Section 16 (1) of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, which is enforced by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA).’ explains Singapore’s government advice portal on the situation.
It warns that, ‘This legislation prohibits the importation, distribution, sale or offer for sale of any confectionery or other food product or any toy or other article that is designed to resemble a tobacco product or the packaging of which is designed to resemble the packaging commonly associated with tobacco products. HSA takes a serious view on any person who contravenes the law. Those guilty of the offence are liable to a fine of up to $5,000 upon conviction.’ So Singapore at least is not holding back.
All this means the only remaining question is how to implement regulation on e cigarettes fairly. What is required to adequately protect vapers and to enable pricing on e cigarettes to remain competitive?
Often, regulating a product causes an immediate price hike as manufacturers struggle to meet and understand the new guidelines imposed, passing the cost of altering processes and factories onto vapers in this instance.
Nonetheless, there may be no future at all for the industry, not merely a pricier one, if it cannot prove that vaping is a safe activity. Which laboratories will set up useful testing regimes, which countries will use them and which companies will be prepared to actually invest in assuring the public their products are safe are likely to be next changes in the game.
“In the end, regulation is necessary, but medicinal regulation should definitely be avoided. It is against the nature of the product, it is contrary to the reasons smokers use e-cigarettes and it will destroy the fortunes of e-cigarettes as smoking substitutes.” argues Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, Doctor & Researcher at The Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece, writing on the vaping advice and discussion portal www.powersmoke.com.
What do you think? Is Farsalinos right? Is regulation really necessary?
Giles has submitted this article on behalf of PowerSmoke