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'Insufficient evidence' that e-cigarettes help smokers quit, says WHO

The World Health Organisation has said smokers should be encouraged to use proven smoking cessation aids rather than e-cigarettes

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has thrown its weight behind concerns over pharmacists recommending e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids.

There was "insufficient" evidence to suggest e-cigarettes helped smokers quit and they should first be encouraged to use already proven smoking cessation aids, the WHO said in a report released on Tuesday (August 26).

The report also argued that e-cigarettes posed a threat to public health – especially to adolescents and pregnant women using the devices – and called for measures to restrict their usage. 

The WHO recommended that the use of e-cigarettes indoors should be banned to reduce the levels of exhaled toxicants around non-smokers.

Candy, alcohol or fruit flavour e-cigarettes should be banned until there was "empirical evidence" that these were not attractive to minors. The health organisation said experimentation with e-cigarettes was "growing rapidly" among adolescents and usage had doubled between 2008 and 2012 among this group.

The WHO advocated global regulation of the products, which are set to be licensed as medicines in the UK by the MHRA in 2016.

But John D'Arcy, managing director of Numark, argued that pharmacies should be able to stock them before that date. Being able to access e-cigarettes from a pharmacy would allow the patient to receive "advice and support" from a healthcare professional, he told C+D.

Although Mr D'Arcy agreed that users should be "cautious" about using e-cigarettes indoors and that they should not be sold to children, he said they were still less dangerous than traditional cigarettes.

 "Traditional cigarettes are a killer, and so any alternative that is likely to be safer has to be a preferred option," Mr D'Arcy explained.

In February, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society called on pharmacists to refrain from stocking e-cigarettes until they became licensed products.

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