WHO: E-cigarettes, 'smoke-free' products don't help reduce cancer

GENEVA • Electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products are not helping to fight cancer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday, urging smokers and governments not to trust claims from cigarette firms about their latest products.

The seventh WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic said blocking the industry's interference was critical to cutting the harm from tobacco use.

"The tobacco industry has a long history of systemic, aggressive, sustained and well-resourced opposition to tobacco control measures," the report said.

"While some strategies are public and others more covert... all have the goal of weakening tobacco control."

The report said tobacco giant Philip Morris International was trying to position itself as a responsible public health partner via its Unsmoke campaign, which encourages people to "change to a better alternative".

The WHO said the campaign aimed to ensure tobacco remained socially acceptable, while confusing consumers with terms such as "smoke-free products", which may refer to products with toxic emissions and unknown short-term and long-term health effects.

Philip Morris spokesman Ryan Sparrow said the WHO's message made it harder to provide safer options for people who cannot quit smoking.

"There is no question that the best choice for smokers is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether. The reality is many people do not. We cannot turn our backs on them," he said.

"Organisations like the WHO need to stop talking at smokers and start listening."

The WHO report said the industry hoped to win respectability through manipulative messages such as claiming its products were part of a "harm reduction" strategy, even though cigarettes still account for 97 per cent of the global tobacco market.


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 28, 2019, with the headline WHO: E-cigarettes, 'smoke-free' products don't help reduce cancer. Subscribe