China to regulate e-cigarettes despite ‘despicable’ WHO

Reports from China suggest Beijing is close to announcing regulations for e-cigarette production, sale and use.

The China Daily has quoted a spokesman for China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission as saying: “E-cigarettes have rapidly become popular throughout the world, but the health authorities will coordinate the related agencies and lobby for regulation of the sector … China will act quickly to protect her people, especially as this is a crucial time for general tobacco control in the country.”

There is widespread confusion over the simple word ‘regulation’, which in many Asian countries has become synonymous with ‘ban’. But harm reduction experts and eminent medical authorities throughout the world have been calling with increasing unanimity for proper regulations to cover ingredients, product safety and age-of-sale so that e-cigarettes can be allowed to become the life-saver they can be.

Astonishingly, the WHO wants to maintain the status quo, where conventional tobacco smoking remains legal but the vaping alternative (“at least 95 percent safer”, according to top medical experts) is restricted – at least according to the WHO’s director general Margaret Chan, who told the China Daily she was concerned. She urged caution. “E-cigarettes will prompt young people to take up smoking. I recommend that national governments ban, or at least regulate, them.”

This statement has been greeted with derision by harm-reduction specialists, not least because the WHO itself has warned of a BILLION deaths worldwide during the 21st century as a consequence of conventional tobacco smoking. Ms (actually Dr) Chan does not call for a ban on smoking – only the less harmful alternative. Experienced commentator Clive Bates called her comment “the most despicable and casually irresponsible thing I have ever heard from a senior official in public health.”

In his blog, Bates said: “This statement will cause thousands of needless deaths if governments do actually follow her advice and ban e-cigarettes – let’s hope they have more sense. The term for the causal pathway between a bureaucrat’s statements or actions and a premature death that happens as a consequence is ‘desk killing’.” says: e-cigarettes and vaping MUST be regulated to safeguard the health of the consumer and help smokers quit. Ingredients should meet food-grade quality standards, product quality must be subject to safety legislation, and availability should be limited by law to adult consumers to deter experimentation by youth (although, despite WHO allegations, not one single scientific study has shown any degree of youth takeup of vaping or anything else to back the idea that e-cigarettes might be a ‘gateway’ to smoking).