The Environmental Health Directorate has warned against advertisements featuring the electronic cigarette, saying that although products and smoking devices (simulating cigarettes or tobacco) such as electronic cigarettes are not illegal, their advertising and use is regulated by a legal notice (LN 22 of 2010).
Contrary to what some marketers of the electronic cigarette imply in their advertisements, the World Health Organisation (Who) does not consider it to be a legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit.
The Environmental Health Directorate said electronic cigarette advertisements are on the increase and “this advertising and the claims made go contrary to established legislation.”
The legal notice in question makes it clear that electronic cigarettes are considered to be tobacco products with respect to advertising and their use in public places.
The Environmental Health Directorate also drew attention to Who’s recommendations on the matter – particularly that unproven claims on the efficacy of electronic cigarettes in reducing tobacco addiction should not be made.
Who insists that the electronic cigarette is not a proven nicotine replacement therapy and that it has no scientific evidence to confirm the product’s safety and efficacy. The organisation has repeatedly stressed that marketers should refrain from suggesting that Who considers the electronic cigarette to be a safe and effective smoking cessation aid.
The typical electronic cigarette is made of stainless steel, has a chamber for storing liquid nicotine in various concentrations, is powered by a rechargeable battery and resembles a real cigarette. Users puff on it as they would a real cigarette, but they do not light it, and it produces no smoke. Rather, it produces a fine, heated mist, which is absorbed into the lungs. It was developed in China in 2004 and sold in numerous countries.
Marketers of the electronic cigarette typically describe it as a means to help smokers break their addictions to tobacco. Some have even gone so far as to imply that Who views it as a legitimate nicotine replacement therapy like nicotine gum, lozenges and patches.
But Who has said it knows of no evidentiary basis for the marketers’ claim that the electronic cigarette helps people quit smoking. Indeed, as far as Who is aware, no rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted showing that the electronic cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy.
Who does not discount the possibility that the electronic cigarette could be useful as a smoking cessation aid. The only way to know is to test.
The international organisation maintains that if the marketers of the electronic cigarette want to help smokers quit, then they need to conduct clinical studies and toxicity analyses and operate within the proper regulatory framework. Until they do that, Who cannot consider the electronic cigarette to be an appropriate nicotine replacement therapy, and it certainly cannot accept false suggestions that it has approved and endorsed the product.