Gerry Stimson* | 26 August 2014

WHO’s mission is to save lives and prevent disease but once again it is exaggerating the risks of e-cigarettes, while downplaying the huge potential of these non-combustible low risk nicotine products to end the epidemic of tobacco related disease. WHO claims e-cigarettes are a threat to public health, but this statement has no evidence to support it, and ignores the large number of people who are using them to cut down or quit smoking completely

The WHO recommendations will do more harm than good, ironically protect cigarette sales, and do little to decrease the avoidable burden of non-communicable diseases.

What is needed is light touch regulation and a proper appreciation of trade-offs between regulation to protect consumers whilst not destroying the value these products offer to smokers who want to quit smoking.

The WHO position paper appears to have cherry-picked the science, used unnecessary scaremongering and misleading language about the effects of nicotine.

WHO want to regulate these products as either tobacco products or medicines, but in reality they are neither. They do not contain tobacco and they aren’t used for treating or preventing disease. They are consumer products, and should be governed by consumer protection legislation with specific standards for liquids devices and packaging, and proportionate controls on marketing. Trying to apply a treaty designed to reduce tobacco consumption is completely inappropriate.

Emeritus Professor at Imperial College, London and co-director of Knowledge-Action-Change (KAC). Professor Stimson is a signatory to the letter addressed to WHO Director General Margaret Chan by 53 leading scientists in May 2014 urging the WHO not to treat e-cigarette regulation in the same manner as traditional tobacco. http://nicotinepolicy.net/documents/letters/MargaretChan.pdf

The WHO report is available at:


Further information:

Michael Kessler

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About Knowledge-Action-Change

Knowledge-Action-Change is an independent organisation committed to the development and promotion of evidence-based policies and interventions in the field of substance use and related areas of public health and public policy. The organisational ethos is to link knowledge transfer and organisational development to achieve impact at relevant organisational, community, national and international levels.