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No ifs, no butts: UK’s £100m e-cigarette industry up in smoke?

October 21, 2014

British people are becoming less attracted to smoking both tobacco and e-cigarettes, with a majority favoring a total ban on the use of the electronic devices indoors, new data shows.

The data, collected by pollster YouGov and the Sunday Times, shows around 60 percent of Britons would like to see e-cigarette devices – that imitate real tobacco, but produce a generally harmless vapor – banned in public buildings.

Such a ban would extend to workplaces and shopping centers. In contrast, only 27 percent of people are against the prohibition.

The data comes despite a huge increase in the number of Britons using E-Cigs. The health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) estimates around 2.1 million people in the UK use the devices.

According to the ASH study, which was published in April this year, the majority of users switched to E-Cigs as a way to help them quit smoking.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed doubts over claims the devices assist quitting, while the YouGov poll indicates only 9 percent of E-Cig users found the devices helped them kick their habit.

Earlier this year, the WHO advised governments to place stronger limits on the use of e-cigarettes, claiming the chemicals contained in vapors were potentially harmful to children, as well as the environment.

Experts have hit out at the WHO’s findings, asserting the devices, on balance, are significantly safer than normal cigarettes and that the report did not paint a complete picture of the benefits of using E-Cigs.

“There are currently two products competing for smokers’ custom,” Peter Hajek, of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University, told the Daily Mail.

“One – the conventional cigarette – endangers users and bystanders and recruits new customers from among non-smoking children who try it. The other – the e-cigarette – is orders of magnitude safer, poses no risk to bystanders, and generates negligible rates of regular use among non-smoking children who try it.”

The E-Cig market it worth more than £1.8bn globally. The UK is one of the product’s largest markets, where its total estimated value is nearly £100mn.

According to experts, the vapors from E-Cigs are intended to be a thousand times less toxic than normal cigarette smoke, although there has been no conclusive study into the potential dangers of the vapor.

While the British Medical Association (BMA) has not made any plans to propose curbs on the use of E-Cigs, they have said that controls are needed to ensure it does not undermine existing law relating to cigarette use.

“Stronger controls are needed on where e-cigarettes can be used to protect others from exposure, to ensure their use does not undermine existing restrictions on smoke-free public places … and to guarantee the use of e-cigarettes does not reinforce the normalcy of smoking behavior,” chairman of the BMA board Sheila Collins told the Sunday Times.

The YouGov poll also illustrated a growth in the number of people supporting further bans on smoking in public places, such as parks and outdoor restaurants. More than half of those surveyed wanting to see further limits on smokers.

It is expected that London Mayor Boris Johnson will adopt proposals for public smoking bans in the city before the end of his tenure in 2016.

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