E-cigarettes should be promoted as an alternative to traditional smoking rather than attacked, a leading manufacturer has urged.
Fontem, a Netherlands-based subsidiary of the big four cigarette maker Imperial Tobacco, hit out at the World Health Organization for pushing an "anti-vaping agenda" and "ignoring the scientific consensus" that e-cigarettes could be a tool in the fight against tobacco use ahead of World No Tobacco Day.
Electronic cigarettes, which contain nicotine but not tobacco, were found last year to be 95 per cent safer than cigarettes.
A recent landmark study from doctors' body the Royal College of Physicians concluded that vaping should be widely encouraged as an alternative to smoking, and found that the use of e-cigarettes was more likely to lead to successfully quitting tobacco smoking that would not otherwise have occurred.
The report also found that using e-cigarettes was not a gateway to smoking.
"The body of scientific evidence in favour of e-cigarettes is growing," Marc Michelsen, senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications, said.
"Yet the EU Tobacco Products Directive and the FDA Deeming Regulations in the United States have both placed restrictions on vaping products that send mixed messages to smokers, suggesting they are no better than tobacco. This is wrong.
"Worse still, Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, last year called on all governments to ban e-cigarettes. We need to support e-cigarettes, not ban them," Michelsen added.
Fontem has argued the number of people switching entirely from smoking to vaping is on the rise, with nearly 50 per cent of all vapers now saying they are "ex-smokers", according to the anti-tobacco organisation Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).
However, new research also released today has shown the British public and smokers are concerned about the use of e-cigarettes and confused about their safety.
The study, by Allen Carr Addiction Clinics, found 47 per cent of people viewed e-cigarettes as the new "health time bomb" for the NHS, while 57 per cent felt e-cigarettes shouldn't be allowed in restaurants.
Over half, 52 per cent, also felt that e-cigarettes shouldn't be used in public spaces such as on trains or in work places.
"We support anything that helps smokers to quit but these research findings highlight that consumers, including smokers themselves, are confused and wary about the impact of government policy, changing attitudes to vaping and are unclear how safe e-cigarettes actually are," John Dicey, global managing director and senior therapist at Allen Carr Addition Clinics, said.
"Aside from those issues it will be years before the long term negative health effects relating to e-cigarettes are known."