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World Health Organization calls for strong regulation of electronic cigarettes

[JURIST] The World Health Organization (WHO) [official website] on Tuesday called for strict regulation [text, PDF] of electronic cigarettes, including a ban on the usage of the devices in public places and advertising targeting minors. The report, which will be debated by member states in October in Moscow, states [NYT report] that a great deal of uncertainty still surrounds e-cigarette use and that indoor use in public spaces should be banned until they are proven harmless to bystanders. The UN health agency also expressed concern about the growing power of the tobacco industry in this fast-developing market. While many health experts celebrated the United Nations health agency's recommendations, saying that they would help guide the world's policy makers, others worried [Reuters report] that overly restrictive regulations could discourage smokers from switching to less dangerous alternatives.

The regulation of electronic cigarettes is not a new idea. The EU Parliament [official website] in February voted to approve [JURIST report] an anti-tobacco law that requires cigarette makers to increase the size of health warnings on packaging from 30 percent to 65 percent of the surface of the package. The law also regulated electronic cigarettes for the first time, requiring them to comply to the packaging and advertising rules, and requiring makers of e-cigarettes to notify EU member state governments prior to the introduction of new products. Cigarette regulations and warning labels are controversial in the US even at the federal level. In 2012 the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that graphic cigarette label warnings [JURIST news archive] are constitutional. The court decided unanimously that the portions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (FSPTCA) [HR 1256 text] designed to limit the tobacco industry's ability to advertise to children, including a ban on distributing clothing and goods with logos or brand names, as well as sponsorship of cultural, athletic and social events requiring cigarette packaging and advertisements, is a valid restriction of commercial speech. Earlier that year a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the FDA regulation recommending warning labels is unconstitutional [JURIST report], issuing a permanent injunction.

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