Ministers will seek to ban the sale of e cigarettes to children under 18 this week and make it illegal for adults to buy e cigarettes for children.

They are acting in response to concerns that the battery powered devices, which simulate smoking by vaporising a liquid solution that is usually infused with some nicotine, encourage the uptake of smoking.

There are also worries, voiced by the British Medical Association and England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, at a lack of rigorous, peer reviewed studies to back the claim of manufacturers that the product is safe.

E cigarettes give the smoker a hit of nicotine a highly addictive drug. An estimated 1.3 million of the current 10 million smokers across Britain have now switched to e cigarettes.

Tobacco companies, including Altria Group, owner of the Philip Morris company, invested in e cigarettes in the face of pressure over the dangers of their products, which include , countries across the world, including ones as varied as , Colombia, Panama and Uruguay, have already banned their sale to children.

Davies said it was important for the British government to protect children given the potential risks. She said “We do not yet know the harm that e cigarettes can cause to adults let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk free. E cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and the amount of nicotine and other chemical constituents and contaminants, including vaporised flavourings, varies between products meaning they could be extremely damaging to young people’s health.”

There is no legal restriction on under 18s buying products containing nicotine, which represents a legal loophole at a time when e cigarettes are becoming popular with under 18s. In an attempt to further restrict children’s access to cigarettes, a new offence will be created which will mean any adult who buys cigarettes or other tobacco products for someone who is under 18 could be given a 50 fixed penalty notice or fined up to 2,500.

Two in five children (41%) of 15 year olds who currently smoke say they usually buy their cigarettes from other people rather than buying them from a shop.

Nearly all (95%) of 11 to 15 year olds who smoke have managed to get someone else to buy cigarettes for them in a shop at least once in the past year.

Opinion: fda oversight of e-cigarettes overdue –

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No e cigarette has been approved by the FDA as a safe and effective product to help people quit smoking. Yet many companies are making claims that e cigarettes help smokers quit. When smokers are ready to quit, they should call 1 800 QUIT NOW or talk with their doctors about using one of the seven FDA approved medications proven to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.

According to one study, there are 250 different e cigarette brands for sale in the U.S. today. With so many brands, there is likely to be wide variation in the chemicals intended and unintended that each contain.

In 2009, lab tests conducted by the FDA found detectable levels of toxic cancer causing chemicals including an ingredient used in anti freeze in two leading brands of e cigarettes and 18 various e cigarette cartridges.

There is no safe form of tobacco. Right now, the public health and medical community or consumers have no way of knowing what chemicals are contained in an e cigarette or what the short and long term health implications might be.

Commonsense regulation of e cigarettes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is urgently needed. In the absence of meaningful oversight, the tobacco industry has free rein to promote their products as “safe” without any proof.

A proposal to regulate e cigarettes and other tobacco products has been under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget since October 1, 2013. The Obama administration must move forward with these rules to protect the health of everyone, especially our children.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Harold P. Wimmer.