The World Health Organisation (WHO) have published a Questions and Answers article on their website regarding the risks of E-cigarettes.
Globally, there are 1.1 billion adult smokers, 60% of them want or intend to quit. Much has been written and said about the potential of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) such as e-cigarettes to help tobacco users quit. While the evidence is still inconclusive, e-cigarettes are often used along with one or more tobacco products.
Governments who want to weigh the potential benefits and risks of e-cigarettes for their population should consider the following:
· Regarding the potential health effects for which the evidence is mounting, there is insufficient data to understand the full breadth of their impact on health as devices have not been on the market long enough. Especially the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes or being exposed to them are yet unknown.
· Nevertheless, the evidence is clear that the aerosols of the majority of ENDS contain toxic chemicals, including nicotine and substances that can cause cancer. ENDS on their own are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and lung disorders and adverse effects on the development of the fetus during pregnancy. ENDS are undoubtedly harmful, should be strictly regulated, and, most importantly, must be kept away from children. Nicotine is highly addictive and found in most e-cigarettes. Both tobacco products and e-cigarettes pose risks to health and the safest approach is not to consume either.
· It is of particular public health concern that increasingly children and adolescents take up the use of e-cigarettes in some countries. Most ENDS can be manipulated by the user. Some manufacturers also hold patents to remotely manipulate nicotine dosages and toxicant delivery. Furthermore, there is a growing body of evidence in some countries that never-smoker adolescents who use ENDS at least double their chance of starting to smoke cigarettes later in life. Exposing children and adolescents to nicotine can have long-lasting, damaging effects on brain development and lead to nicotine addiction.
WHO continues to monitor the evidence and technological developments and will adapt this statement accordingly.