Consumer groups criticized local anti-tobacco advocates for rehashing findings by the World Health Organization (WHO) that are flawed and old. WHO is seeking to ban indoor use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or “vapes”) based on rehashed flawed information. Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the Department of Health is open to adopting the WHO’s recommendation.
“Local anti-tobacco groups should realize that the WHO is not infallible and repeating wrong information on e-cigarettes will not make it correct. “The WHO, which believes that the only way to reduce smoking is for smokers to ‘quit or die’, should open its eyes to the evidence and consider the potential for new technologies, such as e-cigarettes, to reduce smoking-related harms,” said Tom Pinlac, President of The Vapers Philippines.
“Local health experts and anti-tobacco advocates should look beyond the WHO and consider the findings of independent studies on e-cigarettes. There is strong evidence that e-cigarettes can serve as a safer alternative to tobacco. Let us provide smokers who are trying to quit with accurate information on e-cigarettes,” said Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA).
The WHO’s recommendation to ban indoor use of e-cigarettes is based on its report on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) that the WHO released in August 2016. The report claims, among others, that metals exposures among e-cigarette users are higher than in second-hand smoke and could be harmful to bystanders.
The WHO report was analyzed and robustly criticized by the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS), which includes as authors John Britton (head of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group), Ilze Bogdanovich (Cancer Research UK), Ann McNeil (Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London and Trustee of the Society for the Study of Addiction and Healthier Futures), and Linda Bauld (Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling). The critique relies upon evidence developed for Public Health England, an operationally autonomous executive agency of the UK Department of Health.
The UKCTAS critique points to evidence set out in the recent Royal College of Physicians’ report “Nicotine without Smoke” and subsequent research which recognize that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and that smokers who find it difficult to stop should be encouraged to use them.
According to the UKCTAS critique, the WHO report fails to accurately present what is already known about e-cigarettes. In particular, the report positions e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity to reduce smoking; fails to accurately quantify any risks of e-cigarettes compared with smoking and misrepresents existing evidence about any harms to bystanders.
The UKCTAS critique concluded that that metal emissions from e-cigarettes are unlikely to represent serious health hazards. UKCTAS is a network of 13 universities (12 in the UK, one in New Zealand) funded by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration. It aims to deliver an international research and policy development portfolio, and build capacity in tobacco and alcohol research. The center’s work includes developing strategies for behavior change in tobacco and alcohol use, assessing risks, identifying measures to reduce harm, monitoring the tobacco and alcohol industries, and developing effective public policies to improve public health and well being.