An investigation by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) found nine of ten retailers sold them to customers who had never smoked – contravening their own retail guidelines.
Shirley Cramer, of the RSPH, said: ‘E-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation aid, and should be marketed and used solely as a harm reduction tool for smokers.
‘However our investigation has revealed that many vape retailers are turning a blind eye to their use by non-smokers, and effectively pushing them as a lifestyle product. Given the uncertain effects of some substances used in e-liquids, and the potential for the creation of unnecessary nicotine addiction, this represents a potential problem that should be nipped in the bud before it develops.’
Her organisation’s report marks a turning point in the British medical establishment’s approach to e-cigarettes.
UK experts had backed the technology as an effective way for tobacco smokers to quit.
But critics elsewhere have highlighted how e-cigarettes are often marketed to non-smokers. And others expressed concern that the health impact was largely unknown. The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) code of conduct says e-cigarettes should not be sold to people who have never smoked.
But the RSPH investigation into 100 of the UK’s 1,700 vape shops found 87 per cent of them would sell e-cigarettes to these non-smokers.
They found 45 per cent of stores did not even check if new customers were current or former smokers.
And 76 per cent of those that did still continued to encourage the customer to begin vaping.
Richard Hyslop, of the IBVTA, said figures suggested more than 90 per cent of e-cigarette users were current or former tobacco smokers, ‘therefore we do not believe this to be a significant problem’.
© Daily Mail