The World Health Organization (WHO) is pushing to regulate electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, under the same guidelines as regular cigarettes, the Financial Times reports:
Leaked documents seen by the Financial Times revealed that parts of the WHO are keen to classify the battery-powered devices as tobacco under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a WHO treaty that obliges governments to curtail smoking rates across the globe.
Regulatory concerns around e-cigarettes range from unease about the level of nicotine within products to fears that their usage will "renormalise" tobacco and undermine current antismoking laws, such as advertising bans.
Dr Haik Nikogosian, who oversees the secretariat of the FCTC, said that e-cigarettes "could result in a new wave of the tobacco epidemic", in a meeting that set the agenda for the November meeting in Moscow, according to minutes seen by the FT.
He added that "he felt more importance should be given to the threat posed by electronic cigarettes", according to the minutes.
E-cig sales have boomed in popularity over the past couple years, growing from roughly $500 million in 2012 to an estimated $1.5 billion in 2013.
The metal pens emit a nicotine-laced water vapor instead of smoke, allowing them to be smoked indoors.
However, municipalities across the United States such as San Francisco and New York City have enacted new regulations and indoor bans on electronic cigarettes in recent months.
The e-cig industry and other advocates argue the products are a safer, less-noxious alternative to normal cigarettes that can help smokers quit, but public health officials warn that the long-term health effects are untested and unknown.