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The World Health Organization wants to ban flavored vapes 

In a bold move on Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) asked governments to implement tobacco-like regulations for e-cigarettes by banning all flavored vapes. 

This presents a significant challenge to the tobacco industry, which has been increasingly investing in smoking alternatives.

Growing concerns

The U.N. agency’s recommendations stem from concerns about the rising use of e-cigarettes or vapes, particularly among youth. 

Despite being viewed by some researchers, campaigners, and governments as a tool to mitigate the harms of smoking, the WHO emphasized the need for “urgent measures” to regulate vapes. 

Alarming trend

The organization’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, highlighted the alarming trend of children and young people getting addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes. 

“Kids are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-cigarettes and may get hooked to nicotine,” said Ghebreyesus.

The WHO cited studies indicating that vapes might not significantly help smokers quit and could pose health risks. The agency also raised concerns about the increasing usage of vapes among 13-15 year olds, fueled by aggressive marketing strategies.

Proposed regulatory measures

In line with tobacco control, the WHO urged the imposition of stringent measures on e-cigarettes. These include bans on all flavoring agents, such as menthol, and the application of traditional tobacco control measures like high taxes and prohibitions on public usage. 

Though the WHO does not hold regulatory power over nations, its recommendations often influence national policies.

Industry backlash 

Organizations like Imperial Tobacco and the UK Vaping Industry Association argue that vapes, especially flavored ones, play a crucial role in helping smokers transition away from traditional tobacco, asserting that they pose significantly lower health risks. 

This view is shared by some tobacco control advocates. For instance, Cancer Research UK acknowledges that while e-cigarettes are not entirely risk-free, they are less harmful than smoking tobacco, which is known to cause a plethora of cancers.

Marina Murphy, senior director of scientific and medical affairs at vaping firm ANDS, criticized the WHO’s stance as being “detached from reality.” 

“Regulating vapes like cigarettes would only serve to reinforce misunderstandings about the relative risks of vaping and send the wrong message to smokers,” said Murphy.

Unknown health impacts

Despite the industry backlash, the WHO maintains its position, citing the unknown long-term health impacts of flavored vapes. 

The organization points out that e-cigarettes generate substances known to be carcinogenic and pose risks to heart and lung health, especially concerning considering the potential impact on brain development in young users.

Nicotine products 

The WHO’s call for a ban on flavored vapes and the implementation of tobacco-style controls represents a significant turning point in the ongoing debate about the role of e-cigarettes in public health. 

With strong arguments on both sides, the global response to these recommendations will likely shape the future landscape of nicotine products and their regulation.

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