Jury still out on effects of ‘vaping’

The electronic cigarette is under scrutiny.

Vaping is fast becoming an alternative to smoking, but is it safe?

That is a question the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority is seeking to answer during a consultation.

In fact, the NHS in Devon is currently offering no advice on electronic cigarettes until the outcome of the consultation is known.

The unregulated product, sold only to over-18s by responsible retailers, contains no tobacco and is not lit, meaning it can be used by nicotine addicts to outsmart the smoking ban in pubs, clubs and offices - while maintaining their addiction.

The practice is commonly known as vaping, as opposed to smoking, because the user inhales a vapour, not smoke, which can be exhaled.

The vapour is said to be harmless.

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Although vaping is recognised as an alternative to smoking and not a definitive aid to quitting, the e-cigarette could end up being banned in the UK.

There are fears traders could be forced to apply for licences to sell the product as a medical device.

This has come as a shock to advocates of vaping, who point out there is no cancer-causing agent in the device, no risk of passive smoking and no odour.

In fact, they wonder why the NHS is not actively promoting the product to hardened nicotine addicts who have no desire, or willpower, to kick the habit.

The truth is, experts say the dangers, or benefits, of using the device are not yet fully known.

However, they admit the vast majority of chemicals found in cigarettes, up to 5,000, are eliminated in the electronic product.

Scientific trials by Government agencies are a work in progress.

East Devon District Council, which is offering no advice on the product to businesses, told the Midweek Herald that it is aware that Trading Standards officers in the UK have raised concerns about some of the electronic cigarettes it has come across.

A spokesman said: “We understand that Trading Standards officers have previously found that some so-called e-cigarettes sold in the UK are in contravention of product safety regulations.

“Despite the obvious elimination of harmful carcinogens from tobacco smoke, our view is that the overall position concerning health benefits is still unclear and, currently, we do not promote their use, nor do we advise businesses about them.

“Interested parties may wish to visit http://ash.org.uk/ to get a broader view on smoking cessation and health.”

Devon Trading Standards had nothing to say on the subject when The Herald asked for guidance.

While the health effects of electronic cigarettes are not fully known, authorities in New York could become the first to ban their use.

What do you think? Share your views on the electronic cigarette -email belinda.bennett@archant.co.uk