GENEVA – HEALTH UPDATE – The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging immediate action to regulate e-cigarettes and protect children, non-smokers, and the general population from their health risks. E-cigarettes, widely marketed and accessible, are not proven effective for quitting tobacco at a population level and pose significant health risks.
Alarming Trends in E-cigarette Use Among Youth
E-cigarettes are aggressively marketed to young people, with 34 countries banning their sale, while 88 countries lack age restrictions for purchases, and 74 countries have no regulations for these products. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized, “Kids are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-cigarettes and may get hooked to nicotine. I urge countries to implement strict measures to prevent uptake to protect their citizens, especially their children and young people.”
Health Risks and Addiction Concerns
Nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are highly addictive and harmful. They produce toxic substances, some carcinogenic, and increase the risk of heart and lung disorders. E-cigarettes can also impair brain development in young people, leading to learning disorders, and pose risks to bystanders from emissions. Dr. Ruediger Krech, WHO Director for Health Promotion, highlighted the targeting of children through social media, influencers, and appealing flavors and designs, noting a worrying rise in e-cigarette use among youth.
Statistics and Social Media Influence
In Canada, e-cigarette use among 16-19-year-olds doubled from 2017 to 2022, while in England, the number of young users tripled in three years. Exposure to e-cigarette content on social media correlates with increased intentions to use and more positive attitudes towards these products. Furthermore, young e-cigarette users are almost three times more likely to smoke cigarettes later in life.
Recommendations and Measures
WHO calls for urgent measures to prevent e-cigarette uptake and counter nicotine addiction. These include strengthening bans where e-cigarettes are illegal and implementing stringent regulations where they are sold. Governments are advised not to allow the sale of e-cigarettes as consumer products for smoking cessation and should regulate them as medicines under clinical conditions.
Tobacco Industry Tactics
The tobacco industry continues to profit from health destruction, using newer products like e-cigarettes to influence policy-making and promote false evidence while targeting children and non-smokers.
Suggestions for Parents on Discussing Tobacco and E-cigarette Dangers with Children
- Start Early: Engage in conversations about tobacco, vaping, and e-cigarettes with your children at a young age.
- Factual Approach: Use factual information to explain the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and tobacco.
- Discuss Peer Pressure: Talk about peer pressure and the influence of social media and advertising.
- Active Listening: Listen to your child’s views and concerns without judgment to build trust and openness.
- Role Modeling: Set a positive example by avoiding tobacco and e-cigarette use.
- Provide Support: Offer support and guidance on how to refuse e-cigarettes and discuss coping strategies for peer pressure.
- Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with the latest information and trends regarding e-cigarettes and vaping to provide accurate guidance.
The WHO’s stance is clear: decisive action is needed to curb the rising trend of e-cigarette use among children and adolescents and to mitigate their associated health risks.