The Word 'E-Cigarette' Must Be Banned, Says the World Health Organization

WHO particularly hates cigalikes, and wants vaping to be considered a separate entity from 'smoking.'

Aug 26 2014, 3:40pm

Image: Shutterstock

Another day, another major health organization making its position known on e-cigarettes. Or, excuse me, "electronic nicotine delivery systems," as that's what the World Health Organization wants vaping to be known as.

In a report released today, WHO fell pretty firmly on the side of strong controls of e-cigs, saying that flavored nic juice should be banned until it's clear the flavors don't entice kids, and suggesting that indoor vaping bans should be the norm.

WHO appeared to be more skeptical than the American Heart Association on whether vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking (which several studies have suggested is the case), and suggested that very few people actually quit smoking altogether in favor of vaping.


Instead, it said that people probably do a little of both, which isn't all that much healthier than just smoking: "Given the likely greater importance of duration of smoking (number of years smoking) over intensity (number of cigarettes smoked per day) in generating negative health consequences, dual use will have much smaller beneficial effects on overall survival compared with quitting smoking completely."

And that, perhaps, is the impetus for the most interesting bit of the report, buried in a little snippet near the end. It suggests regulators don't allow e-cigarette companies to "use the words e-cigarette, electronic cigarette, or any other descriptor that might reasonably be expected to create confusion with the promotion of cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products."

In other words, WHO doesn't want e-cigarettes to be called e-cigarettes. 

A "vaping mod," not an electronic cigarette. Image: Alii

Because, if you're an e-cigarette user and someone offers you a regular old analog cigarette, you might take a few puffs. And then you're a smoker. Or so the group's thinking goes.

Independent vaping companies have already moved away from the e-cigarette terminology, calling the apparatuses used to vape "mods" and calling the liquid used to vape "juice" or "nic juice." WHO notes that there are "independent ENDS [electronic nicotine delivery systems] companies that have reported no interest in perpetuating tobacco use."

Cigalikes, on the other hand, are often hawked by big tobacco, which WHO repeatedly hammers in the study.

"The ENDS market, initially dominated by companies with no links to the tobacco industry, is increasingly owned by the tobacco industry," the group wrote. Big tobacco's "interest lies in maintaining the status quo in favor of cigarettes as long as possible, while simultaneously providing a longer-term source of profit should the cigarette model prove unsustainable."

Trying to make the e-cigarette experience as similar to the smoking experience, it argues, is one way of doing that.