The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a long-awaited report on electronic cigarettes that calls for regulation of the devices and their contents, as well as bans on indoor use, advertising and sales to minors.
The United Nations health agency, in a report to be debated by member states at a meeting in October, voices concern at the concentration of the multibillion dollar market in the hands of transnational tobacco companies.
WHO urges a range of regulatory options, including prohibiting e-cigarette makers from making health claims – such as that they help people quit smoking – until they provide "convincing supporting scientific evidence and obtain regulatory approval".
E-cigarettes should be regulated to "minimise content and emissions of toxicants", and those with fruit, sweet and alcoholic drinks flavours should be banned, it said, while vending machines should be removed in almost all locations.
WHO declared war on "big tobacco" a decade ago, setting up the WHO framework convention on tobacco control, the world's first public health treaty, which has been ratified by 179 states since coming into force in 2005.
Prior to Tuesday's report, the agency had indicated it would favour applying similar restrictions to all nicotine-containing products, including smokeless ones.
Electronic cigarettes may be more tempting to non-smoking youths than conventional cigarettes, and once young people have tried e-cigarettes they are more inclined to give regular cigarettes a try, US researchers said on Monday.