Much to the irritation of the tobacco industry, including corporate giants such as Philip Morris in Switzerland, the World Health Organization is demanding that governments ban electronic cigarettes indoors. It also wants curbs on advertising and other tactics that lure young people.
In a report issued at the end of August, the UN organization maintains that not enough is known about e-cigarettes, and hence should be prohibited “until exhaled vapour is proven to be not harmful to bystanders”. Given their growing use among minors, many of whom consider “e-cigs” harmless, WHO recommends that nicotine doses be standardized and that fruit or sweet-flavoured versions be banned.
Manufacturers currently maintain that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco as they do not contain carcinogens. Somewhat inexplicably, Philip Morris also says the WHO position excludes them from the “democratic process.”
WHO wants crackdowns on practises that attract young people, which the World Medical Association describes as “sickening” and “predatory.” The industry has consistently used questionable approaches, particularly in eastern Europe and Asia, for encouraging traditional use. Observers note that in Switzerland companies hand out free cigarettes at pop concerts and other events.
Some Swiss politicians have expressed concern that tobacco lobbies are pressuring Bern not to ban smoking in public places as in neighbouring France. Interestingly, WHO staff have received significant hate mail and calls, which, one maintained, are encouraged by the tobacco industry.