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The e-cigarette debate is heating up following a recent proposal from the World Health Organization (WHO) to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and ban the use of e-cigs in public places. The FDA has voiced concerns and many cities across the US have already enacted legislation in an attempt to control the rapidly growing use of e-cigarettes. The WHO proposal carries enough weight to bring about significant change, though not without controversy.

In addition to the ban on smoking, or vaping, indoors, the WHO is suggesting “regulation to ensure the products contain a standard dose of nicotine, as the drug content now varies widely among manufacturers. And to stop children from picking up the habit, it said that e-cigarette sales to minors should be banned and that fruity, candy-type flavorings should be prohibited.”

The World Health Organization, as reported in the New York Times, “expressed “grave concern” about the growing role of the powerful tobacco industry in the e-cigarette market, warning that the financially powerful companies could come to dominate the new business and use the current tolerance of the new products as a gateway to ensnaring a new generation of smokers at a time when the public health authorities seem to be winning the battle against tobacco.”  (New York Times, 8/27/14)

The debate about e-cigarettes has become more serious as reports continue to focus on the increase in child users, though manufacturers maintain that e-cigs are mostly useful for those smokers who want to  ‘kick the habit’. There may be some truth to that, but we just do not yet know how effective e-cigs will be in combating tobacco addiction or how harmful the actual vaping process is. David Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies in Washington reacted to the WHO’s proposal with disappointment. He calls for a more moderate approach to regulating e-cigarettes and cautions against equating them with their more pernicious predecessor, the tobacco cigarette. (New York Times, 8/27/14)

The WHO proposal will be presented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to be held in mid-October in Moscow. It will likely take the clout of an international health organization in determining the safety of e-cigs in order achieve any meaningful, reasonable regulation. For now, some are suggesting a ban on indoor vaping until we fully understand the long-term effects of inhaling the fumes,  for bystanders as well as vapers. The e-cigarette vapor, its unique feature, contains nicotine and other products that are harmful.

The e-cigarette industry is now reportedly valued at $3 billion globally with 466 brands of e-cigs sold across the world. This rapid increase of popularity raises significant concerns in light of the CDC report released this week. “More than a quarter of a million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used electronic cigarettes in 2013, according to a CDC study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.  This number reflects a three-fold increase, from about 79,000 in 2011, to more than 263,000 in 2013.”   This report reinforces the importance of  a thorough approach to the study and regulation of these smoking devices. While there is the potential for e-cigarettes to help smokers quit traditional tobacco products, the WHO notes there is no conclusive evidence supporting those claims.  (New York Times, 8/27/14)

Big Tobacco, as we would expect, is heavily involved in e-cigarettes. “The World Health Organization report worries that Big Tobacco is becoming ‘increasingly aggressive’ in the battle for the fast-growing e-cigarette market.”  It said that while the current crop of independent e-cigarette companies had “no interest in perpetuating tobacco use, the tobacco industry involved in the production and sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems certainly is.”   (New York Times, 8/27/14) This is likely an understatement.

The WHO’s report should provide support for the FDA’s work on developing regulations for the United States. And, at the same time, it is likely to have incited enough concern among e-cigarette manufacturers to set the stage for a stronger battle.  The war has gone on for years over traditional tobacco products.  This conflict may be only slightly less lengthy and combative.  But, no matter how one views it, another war with Big Tobacco is looming on the horizon.


  1. Gravatar for Harsh

    The headline is very misleading, and not representative of the article at all. Anyone who might not find it worthwhile to invest time into exploring details might be easily misled by this headline, which is one of many ill-informed, misguided, opinionated and possibly motivated headlines strewn across the internet on articles concerning e cigarettes.

    This speaks volumes about the misplaced priorities of the legal, health and regulatory machinery. Consequently, such articles may dissuade current smokers from switching to e cigarettes.

  2. Gravatar for heidi

    I personally do not think that the e-cigarette is any good for any one. Especially children! In my opinion it is the same as giving them the "patch" or "nicotine gum", which contains nicotine. This is BAD for children as well as adults. However, Adults are Adults. They are suppose to know better, but we don't. The e-cigarettes have no business in places that have banned smoking at all, for one reason. I believe that it is wrong it is still smoking. I feel that there is some consequence in the vapor that is given off. If smoking is banned, from somewhere take it elsewhere. And Prohibit it from minors to have access to it!!

    1. Gravatar for Greg Webb


      My agenda is simple: I hate smoking of any variety. I have seen too much bad come from it. If you are suggesting I have some ulterior motive here, you would be incorrect. There is no e-cigarette litigation of which I am aware, and I do not foresee any, especially in Virginia given Virginia's law on contributory negligence. Admittedly, I have no love for Big Tobacco and what it has done for decades, and hate to see something similar happen again. That's it. I do not have any e-cig cases and am not looking for any.


  3. Gravatar for Timothy

    What a terrible article. You have this issue backwards. Rather than propagate tobacco use, the E-cigarette (which is not a tobacco product by the way) is aiding in tapering off tobacco use. The jury is still out but investigative pathologists have already proven that its level of carcinogens are infinitely lower than smoking tobacco. I personally know countless people that are finally being able to quit smoking cigarettes using the E-cigarette and it's a great way to begin a path to cessation. I think we've learned from the financially wasteful "War on Drugs" that prohibition is not a viable option anymore. Marijuana is now legal because everyone has easy access to it anyway. Kids will be kids. Be a parent for once and then let your kid decide. Heck, if they really want to get their hands on heroin then they will. If they walk into a store and legally buy cigarettes at age 18 then they will. The same goes for E-cigarettes. Tough beans. This article stinks of big tobacco and privatized health care. Shame!

  4. Gravatar for waffles jones

    This is why Mr Webb should stick to being a lawyer. He just regurgitates the same lies and innuendos from Tobacco Controllers rather than balancing it with the numerous studies that now support ECigs.

    Heidi, so based on your opinion then without ECigs and NRT for smokers you then expect them to continue smoking which is not good for anyone. Vaping is certainly different than smoking as it does not contain the 4000 chemicals and 70 carcinogens in real cigarettes that kill people. ECigs are for adult smokers to use as a safer alternative to smoking and perhaps quit like me. the is Tobacco Harm Reduction and saves lives.

    1. Gravatar for Greg Webb


      I think the article did point out that smoking e-cigs is, as far as we currently know, safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes. The point is that e-cigs are not known to be safe generally. They do appear to be the lesser of 2 evils, so to speak. But, e-cigs still have known harmful ingredients, like nicotine which is a carcinogen and also addictive.


  5. Gravatar for michael

    Trying to ban electronic cigarettes would be like banning "healthier" eating alternatives and taking away.

    1. Gravatar for Greg Webb


      I respectfully disagree. I understand the point you are trying to make, but eating healthier food does not carry the same level or degree of risk that vaping does. Vapor cigarettes still have harmful ingredients, especially nicotine, which is a carcinogen. But, I agree that vaping is, as far we know right now, safer than tobacco cigarettes.


  6. Gravatar for Louis


    Do your research. Nicotine is not a carcinogen. One little Google search determined that.

    1. Gravatar for Greg Webb


      I have to respectfully disagree. I would suggest you do your own research, because I did. At best, and in the light most favorable to you, the issue is somewhat controversial. But, there are multiple studies that show that nicotine is a carcinogen. Try this site, for example: In conclusion, I ask that you research before you comment. Regardless, it is a bad actor, whether you believe it a carcinogen or not.



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