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WHO warning on electronic cigarettes

AN electronic cigarette that produces a fine, heated mist that is absorbed into the lungs is not a proven therapy for smokers trying to quit, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

Users puff on the device as they would a real cigarette, but they do not light it. The device resembles a real cigarette but creates a vapour acting like smoke.

The electronic cigarette, developed by Chinese scientists in 2004, is widely available on the internet — a starter kit, containing about five refills, can be purchased for about €100.

The device is made of stainless steel, has a chamber for storing liquid nicotine in various concentrations, and is powered by a rechargeable battery. Similar devices resembling a cigar and pipe are also available.

The WHO is furious that some sellers have gone so far as to imply that it views the device as a legitimate nicotine replacement therapy, like nicotine gum, lozenges and patches.

Sellers of the device are being urged to stop making unproven therapy claims.

The WHO has not discounted the possibility the electronic cigarette could be useful as a smoking cessation aid, but said the only way to find out was to properly test the product.

* Those wanting help in quitting can contact the National Smokers Quitline at 1850 201 203.

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