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Scientists Ask WHO Not to Classify E-Cigarettes as Tobacco Products

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An international group of scientists is asking the World Health Organization (WHO) not to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products, according to Reuters. The 53 scientists say the devices can help reduce smoking.

The scientists argue in a letter to WHO Director General Margaret Chan that e-cigarettes are “part of the solution” in the fight against smoking. “These products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives. The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted,” the scientists wrote.

Documents leaked from a meeting last November suggest WHO considers e-cigarettes to be a threat, and wants to classify them as tobacco products under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the article notes. The 178 countries that are part of the convention are obligated to implement its measures. The United States is not part of the convention. WHO said it does not yet have an official position on e-cigarettes. Proposed regulations will be discussed at a meeting of the FCTC in October.

If e-cigarettes were classified as tobacco products, participating countries would have to take steps to restrict demand, including banning advertising, raising taxes, adding health warnings and curbing use in public spaces.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new rules in April that would allow the agency to regulate e-cigarettes. The proposed rules would ban the sale of e-cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco to anyone under age 18.

Manufacturers of e-cigarettes and cigars would have to register with the FDA, give the agency a detailed account of the products’ ingredients, describe their manufacturing process and scientific data, and submit to FDA inspections. Companies would no longer be allowed to offer free samples. E-cigarettes would be required to come with warning labels stating they contain nicotine, which is addictive. Vending machines in public places where minors are allowed could not carry e-cigarettes. The rules also ban online sales of e-cigarettes and cigars to minors.

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