A leading medical body has recommended placing a ban on using e-cigarettes in public places, contrary to public health officials.
At the annual meeting of the British Medical Association (BMA), the chair of the Public Health Medicine Committee Dr Iain Kennedy called for a ban on vaping and warned members about the lack of long-term evidence on whether e-cigarettes are safe.
In a two-part motion at the conference, a ban on the chemical diacetyl passed "substantively", meaning it will become BMA policy, whereas the public places ban passed as a reference, meaning it will be considered further, but won't be made policy at this time.
Diacetyl, a chemical used as a butter substitute in cotton candy and cupcakes and used in candy-flavoured e-cigarettes, is linked to respiratory disease and can cause irreversible scarring and constriction of the lung’s tiny airways.
The motion called for diacetyl to be banned in e-cigarettes, while the separate restriction on e-cigarettes hinged around where they should be used in public to "protect the population from second-hand inhalation".
"We need to see a stronger regulatory framework that realises any public health benefit e-cigarettes may have, but addresses the significant concerns from medical professionals around the inconsistent quality of e-cigarettes, the way they are marketed, and whether they are completely safe and efficient as a way to reduce tobacco harm," Dr Ram Moorthy, BMA board of science deputy-chair, said.
At the BMA's 2014 annual meeting, members called on the government to prohibit vaping in public places where smoking is also prohibited.
However, officials at Public Health England dismissed the BMA's motion, indicating that restrictions on where cigarettes could be used could deter smokers from switching to vaping products.
"Vaping is not the same as smoking, secondhand smoke is harmful to health but there is no evidence that e-cigarette vapour carries the same harms," Rosanna O'Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at Public Health England, said.
"In fact, a ban using e-cigarettes could be damaging, as it may put off smokers from using e-cigarettes that help them quit."
Last year, a study by Public Health England found e-cigarettes were 95 per cent less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
In April, a major report from doctors' body the Royal College of Physicians found e-cigarettes were not a gateway to traditional smoking.
The study also concluded they should be "widely promoted" as a substitute to cigarettes, in large part because of the associated public health benefits (and lower public health costs) that would be accrued from tobacco smokers switching to vaping.