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Marketing of e-cigarettes as an 'healthy' alternative to smoking is dangerously misleading, according to a review of evidence by The Union.

The safety of electronic cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems [ENDS] have not been scientifically proven, chemicals delivered by the products have not been fully disclosed and the industry is not regulated, states the review.

Rapid growth in the sector makes regulation urgent. In the UK last year for example, 1.3 million people used e-cigarettes, up from 700,000 in 2012.

'E-cigarette and ENDS manufacturers and vendors have been vocal about the supposed benefits of their products and quick to shout down calls for regulation or questions about their contents,' said José Luis Castro, Interim Executive Director of The Union.

'Based on our review of the available evidence, we strongly support the regulation of the manufacture, marketing and sale of electronic cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems; and our preferred option is to regulate these products as medicines,' he said.

The Union's review highlights that evidence on e-cigarettes as cessation aids is limited and conflicting – debunking a key marketing message from the industry. It also warns that adverse health effects cannot be ruled out for those exposed second-hand to ultrafine chemicals released by e-cigarettes.

José Luis Castro said: 'Right now, significant numbers of people around the globe are using these products, and they just don't know what they are ingesting, what that might mean for their health in the long term or what their use of e-cigarettes and ENDS means for the people around them.'

'It is an echo of the traditional cigarette industry in the 20th century, which created the current global epidemic of tobacco-related harm and mortality. To avoid repeating the same mistakes, we need to act now to regulate e-cigarettes and protect consumers around the world.'

The Union recommends a raft of safety measures be imposed until conclusive scientific evidence is released and the industry regulated. These include bans on all advertising, promotion and sponsorship, prohibition of misleading marketing as cessation aids and a ban on products aimed at children, such as flavourings and colourings.

The Union's report was released in November 2013. Research is ongoing.

 

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