The World Health Organisation (WHO) today said that there should a ban on the use of e-cigarettes indoors.
In a report published today (August 26) the health body, which is part of the UN, says there should be no claims that the devices can help people quit smoking – until there is more evidence to support this.
WHO experts warn the products, whose sales are booming here in the UK, “might pose a threat” to adolescents and the foetuses of pregnant women.
And they urge restrictions to be placed on flavours attractive to children such as fruit or candy. According to the WHO, legal steps should also be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes indoors – both in public spaces and in work places.
But the proposals proved immediately controversial.
Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, of E-Lites called them “troubling” and some researchers suggest tough regulations may actually prevent smokers having access to products that are potentially less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
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.”
Even anti-smoking charity ASH urged caution. Spokeswoman Hazel Cheeseman said there was no evidence of any harm to bystanders and warned regulation needed to be proportionate.
She added: “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, they are considerably less harmful than smoking tobacco and research suggests that they are already helping smokers to quit.”
The WHO’s recommendations were published ahead of a meeting involving all countries that have signed up to an international convention on tobacco control.
New global guidelines could be agreed as early as October.