Critics Question World Health Organization's Stance on E-cigarettes

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Critics Question World Health Organization's Stance on E-cigarettes
World Health Organization's statement on e-cigarette-induced seizures sparks controversy on social media, prompting fact-checking and debate.

According to a report by the Daily Mail, the World Health Organization recently made a statement on the social platform "X", claiming that e-cigarettes can cause seizures within a few hours, which has sparked criticism from various parties. The global health organization's statement on "X" was fact-checked by internet users, and the social platform later released a community statement.


Critics Question World Health Organization's Stance on E-cigarettes
Translate to English: WHO post | Image source: X


The announcement stated: "The basis of this post is research that has not been peer-reviewed and the evidence is uncertain. The basis of this statement is approximately 120 uncertain events that have occurred since 2019."


Dr. Charles Gardner, a developmental neurobiologist in Brooklyn, tweeted, "Please provide peer-reviewed evidence to support the claim that e-cigarettes 'typically' trigger seizures within 24 hours. If you cannot do this, please delete your tweet. Note: I have reviewed the literature and have not found any studies showing that e-cigarettes increase the risk of seizures.


In addition, some users have referred to the World Health Organization as clowns and liars, claiming that they are spreading propaganda. Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, also said, "I am convinced this is nonsense. Why is the World Health Organization's stance on e-cigarettes so peculiarly out of line?"


Critics Question World Health Organization's Stance on E-cigarettes
Supplementary statement of the WHO post | Image source: X


In a community announcement on "X," a link to an editorial on e-cigarettes and epilepsy was included. The editorial, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, discusses a 2019 study analyzing 122 cases of seizure and other neurological symptoms in individuals who reported using e-cigarettes in the past 24 hours. Due to its potential to trigger seizures, researchers suggest that participants may be at risk for nicotine-induced epilepsy and symptoms.


However, the editorial pointed out that the details of the study "raise questions about causality, which must be considered when assessing the actual health risks of nicotine e-cigarettes for adolescents." It also noted, "A major question is why inhaling nicotine from e-cigarettes can trigger seizures, while inhaling nicotine from traditional tobacco does not.


The authors point out that a person would need to inhale a large dose of nicotine to trigger a seizure, but e-cigarette devices contain much lower levels of nicotine compared to traditional cigarettes. Additionally, the toxic effects of high doses of nicotine are expected to appear within minutes of inhalation and dissipate within a few hours. The authors state, "Seizures do not seem likely to occur if there are no other systemic toxic effects present.


In the United States, the use of e-cigarettes has reached record levels, with over 17 million adults and 2 million children addicted to these devices. An editorial pointed out a flaw in a 2019 study, stating that the analysis of reported seizures was based on self-reporting and not always clear. Descriptions varied, with some individuals reporting severe seizures while others detailed tremors or seizure-like activity. In most cases, these events were not evaluated by medical professionals. The editorial's author noted that nicotine could potentially cause anxiety attacks and unconscious muscle contractions, leading some individuals to misinterpret these symptoms as seizures, even though they are not.


Despite traditional cigarette smoking rates decreasing each year, the number of people using e-cigarettes is continuously increasing, especially among middle and high school students. An analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2023 found that 2.1 million children, or nearly 8% of the student population, are using these devices, with 47% of children who have tried e-cigarettes still currently using them.


E-cigarettes typically come in attractive flavors such as cotton candy and caramel custard, and their packaging designs appeal to younger users. Data shows that approximately 90% of young people report having used products with fruit or candy flavors.


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