French doctors voice support for e-cigarettes
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Ten French medical professionals have warned against a possible EU parliament move to re-classify "infinitely safer" electronic cigarettes as regulated medical products that would only be available in pharmacies.
A group of top French medical professionals on Sunday signed a letter voicing their support for electronic cigarettes, while warning the European parliament against re-classifying the smoking substitute as a medical product.
They say that e-cigarettes – a growing industry in France where there are an estimated 1.5 million “vapers” (people who use the devices) – are far less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, even if the long-term health effects have yet to be fully established.
They argue that a possible move by the EU Parliament to re-classify them as medical products (making the liquids used in e-cigarettes only available in pharmacies) would raise prices, hamstring the industry and keep smokers from making the switch away from tobacco.
‘Infinitely less’ dangers
In an unprecedented move, the French doctors wrote: “As medical professionals, we see patients every day who are victims of smoking. It is one of the most serious medical problems in France today.
“At the same time, we have noted the development of electronic cigarettes, which have helped a huge number of people stop smoking tobacco.”
The doctors include experts in tobacco addiction, cardiology, angiology, cancer, urology, neurology, foetal pathology, as well France’s senior ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
“We recommend continued research into the improvement of e-liquids so that an even greater number of smokers can stop using tobacco,” they continued, adding that e-cigarettes were “infinitely less” dangerous than inhaling smoke from burning tobacco, which includes carbon monoxide and carcinogenic tars.
The safety of electronic cigarettes remains a hotly debated issue, however, and the World Health Organisation has warned that "the potential risks they pose for the health of users remain undetermined" while the devices’ safety "has not been scientifically demonstrated".
Research published in British medical journal The Lancet in September, quoting from a New Zealand study, called them more effective than nicotine patches in helping smokers quit.
But the study also warned that “more research is urgently needed to clearly establish their overall benefits and harms at both individual and population levels”.
Possible ban on menthol and ‘slim’ cigarettes
MEPs are due to vote on new legislation regulating the sale of tobacco products from Tuesday.
The move includes proposals by the EU Tobacco Products Directive for health warnings to cover 75 percent of cigarette packets and bans on flavoured (including menthol) and “slim” cigarettes, as well as the proposal to re-classify electronic cigarettes.
The aim of the legislation – which has been held up by “unprecedented” lobbying by the tobacco industry, according to a senior Irish diplomat - is to reduce nicotine addiction among the young and cut down on the estimated 700,000 EU citizens who die of smoking-related causes each year.
The proposed measures were agreed among EU member states in June, and the 750-member parliament will vote Tuesday to decide whether to move forward with negotiations or allow time for further amendments.