ELECTRONIC cigarettes have the potential to save thousands of lives a year, researchers claim.
University College London (UCL) experts have said over 6,000 premature deaths a year could be prevented for every million British smokers who give up tobacco for e-cigarettes.
This would add up to more than 54,000 lives saved every year if all of the UK’s nine million smokers switched.
The claims differ sharply from recent warnings over the potential health risks of electronic cigarettes.
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that e-cigarettes could lead to tobacco smoking and that bystanders could inhale significant levels of toxins from the vapour.
However, Professor Robert West and Dr Jamie Brown from UCL’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health say the concentration of toxins in e-cigarettes is actually “very low.”
The scientists argued the vapour contains “nothing like the concentrations of carcinogens and toxins as cigarette smoke” in an editorial published in the British Journal of General Practice.
“In fact, toxin concentrations are almost all well below one twentieth that of cigarette smoke.”
But the research acknowledged the possibility that using e-cigarettes increases the risk of death.
A separate report by Kings College London researchers called WHO’s findings “misleading.”
Lead author Professor Ann McNeill from the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London commented: “We were surprised by the negativity of the commissioned review, and found it misleading and not an accurate reflection of available evidence.
“E-cigarettes are new and we certainly don’t yet have all the answers to their long-term health impact, but what we do know is that they are much safer than cigarettes, which kill over six million people a year worldwide.”
WHO has called for strict regulation of e-cigarattes and a ban on indoor use.
It also suggested restrictions on advertising and on sales to under-18s.