Considered to be a safer alternative to smoking, the e-cigarette (electronic nicotine delivery system) has boomed in recent years, but now its use could be limited due to calls for strict new measures.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a report claiming steps need to be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors – in both work spaces and public places – to prevent the harm exhaling the vapour could cause.
WHO experts warn the electronic devices may pose a particular threat to adolescents and the feotuses of pregnant women, and adds that they could also potentially spark increased cigarette use in children.
In addition to this ban, the health body suggests the following measures should be taken:
- Stop the sales of e-cigarettes to children.
- Advertisements encouraging people to use the devices should be banned.
- No more claims should be made to support the notion that e-cigarettes help smokers to quit.
- Prohibit the sales of flavoured devices, which include fruit, candy and alcohol-drink style flavours.
- Heavy restrictions should be placed on purchasing the devices from vending machines.
Despite the potential harmful effects of e-cigarettes, campaigners believe WHO’s suggested measures are too extreme and that any regulations should be proportionate.
A spokesman for the British American Tobacco company said: “We have always said that given nicotine is addictive, minimum age laws of 18 for the sale of e-cigarettes should be introduced.
“However, if overly restrictive regulations are introduced hampering innovation or adult usage, then this could simply stifle the growth of new products and prevent smokers from being aware of and having access to them – this can only be bad thing for public health.”
Hazel Cheeseman, at the charity Action on Smoking and Health added that regulations may hinder the so far positive effects e-cigarettes are having on the number of smokers in Britain.
She said: “Smoking kills 100,000 people in the UK alone. Smokers who switch to using electronic cigarettes in whole or in part are likely to substantially reduce their health risks.
“Although we cannot be sure that electronic cigarettes are completely safe, as the WHO acknowledges, they are considerably less harmful than smoking tobacco and research suggests that they are already helping smokers to quit.”
A spokeswoman for the UK Department of Health commented that plans are already in place to change the law to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 and to address the issue of advertising, labelling and packaging.