“Electronic cigarettes could be unsafe and lead to health problems,” ministers warn

Electronic cigarettes could be unsafe and lead to long-term health problems, ministers have admitted.

They are considering toughening-up the law by ensuring the devices undergo strict checks before being put on sale.

Around 650,000 smokers are thought to be using the inhalers – which look like cigarettes or pens – to help them kick the habit.

Warning: Electronic cigarettes could be unsafe and lead to long-term health problems according to ministers

Warning: Electronic cigarettes could be unsafe and lead to long-term health problems according to ministers

They trick them into thinking they are smoking an ordinary cigarette by releasing nicotine and certain other vapours.

But at present the devices – which are all imported from China – do not have to undergo any safety checks before being put on sale in high street chemists.

Ministers are concerned that some brands may contain very high levels of nicotine – the addictive substance in cigarettes has also been linked to cancer.

There is also evidence that certain types of ‘e-cigs’ have high levels of poisonous chemicals.

These include ‘tobacco-specific nitrosamines’ – a substance given off by nicotine – which has been shown to cause cancer in rats.

Certain brands have also been found to contain Diethylene glycol, a poisonous chemical which is fatal in exceptionally high doses.

The Government’s drug’s watchdog – the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency – will make a decision next Spring on whether to introduce stricter checks.

Health minister Simon Burns said: ‘The available data suggest that there can be great variability in the content of electronic cigarettes, both in the amount of nicotine present and also in relation to other potentially toxic substances.

‘Some electronic cigarettes have been tested by local authority trading standards departments and have been found to pose a potential danger to consumers.’

Despite concerns over their safety, the watchdog does not want to ban them as it could lead to smokers going back to ordinary cigarettes.

They are already outlawed in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada – and the state of New York is set to follow suit following a recent vote.

Figures from the charity Action on Smoking and Health show that 2 million Britons have tried e-cigs at least once, with 650,000 currently using them.

Deborah Arnott, spokesman for the charity said: ‘We certainly wouldn’t want smokers to think it’s better to go back to using cigarettes rather than e-cigarettes.

‘We’d want to see them properly regulated. Presently they are made in China but there are not properly regulated on how much nicotine they contain or on their safety quality.’

Michael Ryan a founder of the largest UK brand E-Lites said: “We strongly disagree with this unwarranted criticism of electronic cigarettes.”

“The inference that electronic cigarettes contain cancer-causing chemicals in the form of Tobacco-Specific Nitrosamines has been discredited in the US, where the FDA demonstrated that the levels of TSNAs were too miniscule to be quantified.

In fact, the levels are comparable with those in pharmaceutical NRT products such as patches and gums, which are freely available via the NHS.”