Health boards and councils in Scotland are increasingly choosing to ban the use of electronic cigarettes within their premises, fearing that they may be harmful to the people inside. Most schools and hospitals have also imposed similar prohibition on the use of the product. Scotland has banned cigarette use in enclosed public places since 2006.
According to the findings of a study carried out by the Sunday Mail, the controversial e-cigarette, which has the potential of sharply polarising opinions and which has been roundly criticised by health experts, has been banned in a majority of the health boards and councils in Scotland.
Electronic cigarettes produce a nicotine-containing vapour instead of smoke. They do not contain tar and other toxic chemicals that are produced during the burning of tobacco and hence are generally considered to be a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. Many also view e-cigarettes as an effective aid to quit smoking.
However, being a relatively new product, no long-term clinical studies have been conducted on the product to determine its efficacy and safety as well as to determine whether it should be treated in the same manner as tobacco cigarettes.
The study revealed that out of eight health boards which participated, seven had imposed a ban on e-cigarette use within hospitals and grounds. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde justified the move reiterating that allowing the use of e-cigarettes appears to suggest that smoking in public places is acceptable.
16 of the 27 councils who participated in the study confirmed that the use of electronic cigarettes was not permitted in their buildings, sports centres and schools. Six others stated that though e-cigarettes were not prohibited, they were mulling changes in their smoking policies.
The Glasgow City Council is likely to ban the product. They opine that e-cigarettes are a substitute for tobacco cigarettes and therefore should be regulated in the same manner.
SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell who is considered to be instrumental in pushing for the ban, welcomed the move. In his opinion, neither the use of electronic nor tobacco cigarettes should be permitted in public places. He contends that very little research on e-cigarettes is available and hence there are legitimate concerns about the safety of the product.
Andy Kerr, former Labour health minister, who worked hard to get the smoking ban passed, acknowledged that many were using e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. He stated that they should be supported and not hindered in their efforts to give up. According to him the ban on e-cigarette use in public places would benefit them by ensuring that the device is safe for use.
Action on Smoking and Health Scotland representative Sheila Duffy stressed the need to take full advantage of the benefits e-cigarettes have to offer while eliminating the ill-effects to the extent possible.
Simon Clark, who is a member of Forest, a smoker’s lobby group, termed the ban as “crazy”. According to him, e-cigarettes are a much preferred choice and people can use them even while they are at their desks.
The European Union is seeking to include electronic cigarettes within the ambit of a directive which targeted tobacco products.
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government pointed out that electronic cigarettes are presently unregulated and their safety and efficacy are still to be proved. She stated that their future course of action will be guided by the EU decision.