GENEVA — Governments should have tougher rules for electronic cigarettes – banning their use indoors and putting them off limits for minors – until more evidence can be gathered about their risks, the U.N. health agency said Tuesday.
In a bid to set public policy, the World Health Organization said the popular nicotine-vapor products, particularly the fruit, candy and alcohol-drink flavors, could serve as gateway addictions for children and adolescents.
It recommended governments forbid or keep to a minimum any advertising, promotion or sponsorship in a market that has mushroomed to $3 billion last year and now includes 466 different brands.
In a report, the Geneva-based agency found that the boom in e-cigarettes presents a public health dilemma.
Regulation “is a necessary precondition for establishing a scientific basis on which to judge the effects of their use,” it said.
Little is known about the health effects of e-cigarettes, which have been sold in the U.S. since 2007 and contain less toxic substances than traditional cigarettes do. The biggest markets are Europe and North America, where U.S. regulators in April proposed treating e-cigarettes as tobacco products with rules such as a ban on sales to those under 18 and warning labels.