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Study: E-cigarettes 'less harmful' than tobacco

A review of current research suggests that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than conventional cigarettes. 

Although the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes is unknown, scientists believe replacing traditional tobacco with them could reduce smoking-related deaths. 

The international group of researchers, published in the journal Addiction, believe that e-cigarettes should be less tightly regulated than tobacco. 

The researchers looked at 81 studies, examining safety concerns, chemicals in the liquids and vapours and use among smokers and non-smokers. 

Risks to users and of passive smoke are “far less” than those from tobacco smoke, according to the studies. 

However, the researchers warned that the effects on people with respiratory conditions are not completely understood. 

E-cigarettes contain some of the toxins seen in tobacco smoke, but at lower levels, the researchers said. 

And there is no current evidence that children move from experimenting with e-cigarettes to regular use, leading the researchers to conclude that the products do not encourage young people into conventional smoking. 

Switching to e-cigarettes can help tobacco smokers quit or reduce cigarette consumption, the analysis suggests. 

Professor Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University in London, an author on the paper, told the BBC: "This is not the final list of risks, others may emerge.

"But regulators need to be mindful of crippling the e-cigarette market and by doing so failing to give smokers access to these safer products that could save their lives.

"If harsh regulations are put in place now, we will damage public health on a big scale."

The World Health Organization, along with many national authorities, are considering policies to restrict sale, advertising and use of electronic cigarettes. 

In the UK, around two million people use e-cigarettes. Instead of breathing in tobacco smoke, e-cigarette users inhale vaporised liquid nicotine.