Experts demand tighter controls on e-cigarettes


HEALTH experts are demanding tighter controls on electronic cigarettes amid fears customers could be exposed to poisonous chemicals

The nicotine vapour inhaler devices are not subject regulation, and fears are growing that people could be subjected to “unclean” and “unsafe” products.

The devices hit the headlines earlier this year when it emerged Standard Life had banned its employees from smoking e-cigs at their desks.

ASH Scotland warned evidence on e-cigs was “limited”.


Many of the e-cigs brands readily available in the UK are imported without control and inspection from other countries, including China.

E-cigs do not contain tobacco and therefore are not regulated by Tobacco Product Regulations, they are also not classed as medical devices so can not be regulated in the same way as other nicotine replacement products.

The devices, which can be charged through a computer USB port, were invented by a Chinese pharmacist in 2004.

Prof John Britton, chair of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, said that regulating e-cigarettes would ensure a “guaranteed standard” for consumers was met.

He said: “Electronic cigarettes have the potential to save thousands of lives, but the fact that they are unregulated is bad as it leaves people open to using unclean and unsafe products.

“Electronic cigarettes can not be seen as being as safe as other regulated nicotine replacement therapies which meet pharmaceutical standards, these products are tested and have additives in them that we know to be safe – e-cigarettes don’t have this.

“The concept of nicotine replacement is powerful and good, but e-cigarettes are really testing this system – they are new and they are unregulated. Regulation would be useful and it would be nice to clean up the loopholes.

“At the moment electronic cigarettes may list the contents on the side of the packet, but there is no way of proving that this is the true content as there is no regulation.

“Electronic cigarettes are probably positive and if everyone switched to e-cigarettes it could potentially save millions of lives, but regulation would certainly be useful at this time,” he added.

A lack of regulation has led several countries, including Canada, Australia, and Singapore to ban the products because of fears over possible side-effects.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, warned that e-cigarettes do not have the same safety standards as some other nicotine containing products.


She added: “E-cigarettes are unlicensed products. This means there are no national safety standards or controls as to how they are sold.

“Also, little is known about their ingredients or the reliability of nicotine dosage. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is considering whether to regulate e-cigarettes and other new products that contain nicotine. At least until the MHRA reports back, Cancer Research UK does not recommend the use of e-cigarettes.”

SkyCig is the largest distributor of e-cigarettes in Scotland and has around 20,000 customers. A spokeswoman from the company said it estimated it replaced around 24 million tobacco cigarettes across the UK last year.

She added: “We absolutely welcome tighter regulations on e-cigarette products. It will help the industry grow to its potential by only allowing the best products to be distributed.

“Our products have been evaluated by the Edinburgh Scientific Services and we are also working with hire quality standard associations which we cannot disclose at the time.”

A typical electronic cigarette contains a nicotine cartridge, a vaporiser, with electronic circuitry and sensors and a battery.

Depending on the brand a cartridge may contain between 0-16mg of nicotine. The cartridge may contain additional chemicals, including propylene glycol, water and various flavourings.

On inhalation the cartridge is heated and a fine mist containing approximately 20 ingredients is produced. This mist is absorbed into the lungs, although some odourless vapour is released into the air as the smoker exhales.

Anti-tobacco group, ASH Scotland, warned that the lack of safety information on the cigarettes was a “concern”.

Chief Executive, Sheila Duffy, said: “Evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes is limited and existing regulation of the product isn’t consistent, which concerns us. We’re awaiting a the results of research from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in Spring 2013, which will give more clarity on the harmfulness and efficacy of this product.

“Even more concerning, however, is that e-cigarettes also look like real cigarettes and are able to be used in many places where smoking is banned. Tobacco is not a normal product – it kills half of its consumers if used as intended. As a society we have a responsibility to protect young people by moving away from giving the impression that smoking is a desirable thing to do.”


  1. The electronic cigarette helped me quit smoking! If you are looking for a safe alternative then pick up or at least try the e cigarette

  2. I’ve used electronic cigarettes to get off smoking and I think that by providing regulations to these devices, there could be a great boom to the “quit smoking” movement. If regulations were to come into place then there could be mainstream marketing of e-cigs which indeed could save the lives of millions!

  3. using a pv (personal vaporiser) is NOT nrt its a safe alternative to killing yourself smoking 4000 chemicals other than nicotine !!

    • Even 2 years on from this post there is a lot of misinformation about e cigs despite the numerous studies that have been carried out. Seems the WHO for one would rather smokers stick to tobacco rather than vape.

  4. That’s funny, I would have considered ‘protecting young people from giving the impression that smoking is a desirable thing to do’ as a parent’s job, not the government’s.

  5. The Electronic Cigarette has allowed me to be cigarette free for over a year, something which traditional NRT didn’t. I did my research, found a couple of forums, and bought sensibly using the information and advice i was given.

    Electronic Cigarettes maybe unregulated, but there are ‘Trusted Vendors’ from whom people can purchase them with confidence. In the same way folk buy from certain retailers instead of from Boot Fayres or Market Stalls.

  6. Anyone who says ecigarettes are unregulated in the UK is a liar.

    They are regulated by the Trading Standards authorities, who take away samples for inspection and analysis. All UK shops and websites are covered. If there are any toxic materials or contaminants the products will be removed from sale and the vendors may be prosecuted. Since it is not possible for widespread harm to occur, and since this is the only form of regulation required, people saying ecigs are unregulated are liars. They are also likely to be in the pay of the pharma industry, either directly or indirectly, or have some connection via work or funding, because pharma is desperate to kill off any commercial rivals to their NRT sales.

    Ecigs are an even more serious threat to pharma since the highly profitable sales of chemotherapy drugs, COPD drugs and cardiac drugs for sick smokers will eventually take a 50% hit when ecigs become popular: every ecig user is a smoker who won’t get sick and die. Pharma and their sockpuppets need to stop this before it goes too far. They pay liars far and wide to distribute their propaganda for them.

  7. It’s my understanding that unlike the US, there’s a reputable industry group based in the UK that focuses on product safety, the ECTA. I think they have inspections and standards to mitigate any issues with the devices being imported from China.

  8. I’m glad I didn’t read this article until after I purchased a start up kit for my 20 year old son. I’m sure I would have been so skeptical and paralyzed with doubt about what could be. But with smoking, it isn’t a matter of “could”, rather it “will be”. If half of the consumers who smoke die, then what else is there to think about? It’s worth the risk.

  9. E-Cigarettes have got me off smoking after 25 years of countless failed attempts to quit smoking. Tobacco cigarettes, whose lethal effects ARE known to all, and which DO contain hundreds of filthy chemical toxins are still legal and out there for all and sundry to enjoy and slowly die from.

    There definitely should be better regulation in e-cig packaging and contents but this should be reasonable and balanced, and should not serve to demonize e-cigarettes or prevent their continued sale to the millions of people who now lead healthier, happier lives because of them.


  10. Sorry but if e cigarettes categorically cannot be worse for you than smoking. All of the ingredients are found in normal cigarettes, but the other thousands of more harmful ingredients aren’t. Worst case scenario, if e cigs ARE found to be bad for your health then even then they have got to be a better option than the real thing. If you want to ban something BAN REAL CIGARETTES!

  11. Canada has not banned e cig just the import or export of nicotine. There are no bans for vaping anywhere that I have gone to. All Health Canada has done is say they are unclear in the safety of them. I have been using a personal vaporizer for almost three years with no problems at all: in fact my health is better which is a bonus. The benefits for me to use a personal vaporizer far outweigh an negative…..well for me there are no negatives 🙂 I breath better and since I am deaf and lipread it has always helped me in my focus and due to my fibromyagia it has helped me in memory problems. Do some research on the benefits of nicotine before you slam personal vaporizers. I have bad allergies to the patches and the gum so no matter what any government is going to do about regulations or bans I will continue all my life with my PV. It is silly to try and ban something that is helping so many people in so many ways. I am also 56 years old and that is old enough to make my own choices ty

  12. Hang on….Cancer Research UK would rather people carry on smoking tobacco than using ecigs as they don’t recommend them? Cancer Research UK? Am I missing something here? What ingredient in an ecig is more harmful or carcinogenic than a tobacco product!

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