The World Health Organisation (WHO) is accusing the tobacco industry of spreading misinformation and deliberately recruiting children when marketing e-cigarettes.
The industry “funds and promotes false evidence to argue that these products reduce harm,’’ the UN agency said in Geneva on Thursday and called for stricter regulations for such products.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned in a statement that, “Kids are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-cigarettes and may get hooked to nicotine.’’
The WHO wants countries to make e-cigarettes less attractive by banning flavours, reducing the nicotine content and levying taxes on the products.
E-cigarettes are advertised by tobacco companies as nicotine products that can reduce health risks compared to conventional cigarettes.
The WHO points out that the use of electric nicotine vaporizers also produces toxic substances that can cause cancer and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition, unborn children could be harmed in the womb and the mental development of underage consumers could be impaired, it said.
The organisation said children ages 13 to 15 are using e-cigarettes at a higher rate than adults in all WHO regions.
The group noted that in Canada, the rates of e-cigarette used among teens ages 16 to 19 doubled between 2017 to 2022.
In England, the number of young users had tripled in the past three years.
The WHO says that e-cigarettes is not a suitable alternative for reducing the consumption of tobacco, but rather increase the likelihood of users turning to conventional cigarettes due to their addictive effect.