Endgame or ENDs game?

The contentious issue of e-cigarettes or ENDs [electronic nicotine delivery systems] was tackled in several sessions at this week’s  World Conference on Tobacco or Health.

In a plenary chaired by WHO’s Dr Douglas Bettcher and Dr Vera Da Costa e Silva on Wednesday, experts reviewed the evidence for both the potential public health benefits and potential risks of ENDs. WHO’s position on ENDs was discussed, as articulated at 2014’s 6th Conference of the Parties [WHO FCTC]. Aggressive marketing of ENDs by the tobacco industry whose campaigns target children and young people, and the efficacy of these products as cessation devices were covered. In summary the panel concluded that more science was needed, but that in the meantime the door should not be closed on ENDs as a potential cessation device.

Friday’s symposium session ‘Can E-Cigarettes Be Used to Eliminate Cigarettes’ was standing room only.  It covered an evaluation of the real and potential harms of e-cigarettes to individual users, early evidence of population-level impacts and vaping as consumer movement. It was chaired by Deborah Arnott of ASH UK and Ron Borland of Cancer Council Victoria. The panel concluded that excessive regulation of ENDs would kill ‘the enemy of the enemy’ and that ENDs as the less of two evils should be available for harm reduction.

Both panels agreed that combustion of tobacco is an obsolete process, that marketing of these ENDs to young people should be banned, and that more research into the potential harms and public health benefits of e-cigarettes is urgently needed.