London, Apr 14 : Health experts are demanding stringent controls on electronic cigarettes over concerns that customers could be exposed to poisonous chemicals.
The nicotine vapour inhaler devices, mostly imported from China, are not subject to regulations and fears are growing that people could be subjected to `unclean' and `unsafe' products.
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 they not be regulated in the same way as other nicotine replacement products.
A Chinese pharmacist invented the devices, which can be charged through a computer USB port, 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.
"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," the Daily Mail quoted Prof Britton as saying.
"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," he said.
Prof Britton also said that due to lack of regulation there was no way to prove that the contents listed on the packet were actually the contents of the e cigarettes.
"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," he said.
"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.
"E-cigarettes are unlicensed products. This means there are no national safety standards or controls as to how they are sold, King said.
"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," King said. (ANI)