A group of 53 leading scientists has warned the World Health Organisation not to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products, arguing that doing so would jeopardize a major opportunity to slash disease and deaths caused by smoking.
The UN agency, which is currently assessing its position on the matter, has previously indicated it would favor applying similar restrictions to all nicotine-containing products.
In an open letter to WHO Director General Margaret Chan, the scientists from Europe, North America, Asia and Australia argued that low-risk products like e-cigarettes were "part of the solution" in the fight against smoking, not part of the problem.
"These products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives. The urge to control and suppress them as tobacco products should be resisted," the experts wrote.
Leaked documents from a meeting last November suggest the WHO views e-cigarettes as a "threat" and wants them classified the same way as regular tobacco products under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).