Don't trust tobacco companies' e-cigarette claims - WHO

Electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products are not helping fight cancer, the World Health Organization (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 industry was trying to gain respectability through manipulative messages such as claiming their products were part of a "harm reduction" strategy, even though cigarettes still account for 97 percent of the global tobacco market, the report said.

Vinayak Prasad, programme manager of WHO's tobacco control unit, told reporters that development of new products was solely intended to expand the markets of tobacco firms.

"There is no difference between cigarettes and heated tobacco products except that in terms of exposure: the exposure is less and the smoke is not visible," he said.

Electronic cigarettes, containing nicotine but not tobacco, were promoted as a way to quit smoking. But there was no evidence to justify the claim, and evidence from the United States showed they had increased the prevalence of young people smoking, he said.

Cigarette company Philip Morris dismissed the WHO's concerns.

"There is no question that the best choice for smokers is to quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether," said spokesperson Ryan Sparrow.

"The reality is many people do not. We cannot turn our backs on them. Organisations like the WHO need to stop talking at smokers and start listening.

A top Kiwi vaping entrepreneur last week said regulation would put the Government's Smokefree 2025 plans at risk.

"If the Government drops the nicotine levels by regulation to say one-fifth of that found in a conventional cigarette, then that will decimate the local vaping industry with only Big Tobacco coming out on top!" Ben Pryor of Alt New Zealand said.

"It would mean less smokers make a successful transition to vaping, so we'd see Kiwis quitting tobacco at a much slower rate.

"In fact, it's highly likely the outcome of all this could deliver the complete opposite of what the Government actually wants."

University of Otago study earlier this year showed liberalising the rules around vaping products led to a gain of 236,000 life years for the general population, and savings of $3.4 billion in the health system, over their newly extended lifespans. The research suggested it will have the same effect on public health as 15 years of 10 percent excise tax increases.

Reuters / Newshub.