WHO warning on vaping draws harsh response from U.K. researchers

Science | AAAS | 1/22/2020 | Staff
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New warnings about vaping issued this week by the World Health Organization have prompted strong pushback from public health experts in the United Kingdom, who charged that WHO was spreading “blatant misinformation” about the potential risks and benefits of e-cigarettes.

The pointed exchange comes amid growing controversy over the value of e-cigarettes, and how to weigh their role as a smoking cessation tool against their potential harms, especially among young people for whom vaping has soared in popularity. The statements align with others made by U.K. public health officials in recent months, which have generally supported vaping as a useful alternative to traditional cigarettes. In contrast, WHO’s cautions about vaping echo those voiced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and some U.S. scientists, who are expressing alarm over both known and still-uncertain hazards from vaping. After an outbreak of severe lung disease that’s still being investigated and is currently linked to THC-containing e-cigarettes, CDC now recommends that e-cigarettes of all kinds “never be used by youths.”

Document - Monday - WHO - Reservations - Value

In a document released Monday, WHO expressed reservations about the value of e-cigarettes and grave concerns about their risks. The organization stated “there is no doubt” that e-cigarettes “are harmful to health and are not safe, but it is too early to provide a clear answer on the long-term impact of using them or being exposed to them.” WHO also suggested “there is not enough evidence to support the use of these products for smoking cessation,” and urged smokers looking to quit to try nicotine patches or gum, or other tools such as hotlines that counsel smokers.

The U.K. response was harsh. “The WHO has a history of anti-vaping activism that is damaging their reputation. This document is particularly malign,” Peter Hajek, who directs the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of...
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