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Scientists Ask the WHO not to Classify E-Cigarettes as Tobacco Products

Update Date: May 29, 2014 04:19 PM EDT

Over the past few years, e-cigarettes have gained a lot of popularity. With more people using these devices, experts have expressed concerns over whether or not these products should be regulated and if so, how should they be categorized. According to a group of 53 scientists, e-cigarettes should not be grouped together with tobacco. The group has sent an open letter to Margaret Chen, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Director General, urging the UN agency not to subject e-cigarettes to the same strict regulations as tobacco products.

"These products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century - perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives. The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted," the scientists wrote according to CBC News.

The open letter came after rumors indicated that the WHO wants e-cigarettes classified with tobacco products. The scientists argued that e-cigarettes should be viewed as a tool that can help reduce the world's smoking rate. The team stressed that e-cigarettes provide smokers with a relatively healthier alternative.

"Even though most of us would prefer people to quit smoking and using nicotine altogether, experience suggests that many smokers cannot or choose not to give up nicotine and will continue to smoke if there is no safer alternative available that is acceptable to them," the scientists wrote according to TIME.

Despite the scientists' argument, studies examining the effectiveness of using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking have yielded contradictory results. On top of being unsure of whether or not e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, experts are also unaware of the long-term health effects of "vaping."

The scientists added that if the WHO decided to group e-cigarettes with tobacco products, regulations for e-cigarettes would become very strict. Some of the strict measures would include increasing taxes to lower demand and banning certain forms of advertisements.

In order to group e-cigarettes with tobacco products, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) would need 178 signatories. The FCTC will meet in Moscow, Russia in October, where they will consider any proposed regulations.

The open letter can be accessed here.

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