Vaping shops across the Fylde coast have welcomed calls for rules around e-cigarettes to be relaxed so they can be more widely used and accepted in society.
A report by a committee of MPs claims use of the electronic version is much less harmful than regular cigarettes.
They suggest e-cigarettes should be made available on prescription to help more people quit smoking and have even asked the Government to consider allowing them to be used on public transport.
The report, by the science and technology MPs’ committee, says they were too often overlooked by the NHS as a tool to help people stop smoking.
Among measures suggested by the MPs are:
Greater freedom for the industry to advertise e-cigarettes
Relaxing of regulations and tax duties on e-cigarettes to reflect their relative health benefits
An annual review of the health effects of e-cigarettes
A debate on vaping in public spaces, such as on public transport and in offices
E-cigarettes licensed as medical devices
A rethink on limits on refill strengths and tank sizes.
It is estimated that around 2.9m people in the UK are currently using e-cigarettes.
Of those, almost half a million are using them as an aid to stop smoking with tens of thousands successfully quitting smoking each year as a result.
“I really welcome this report,” said Stuart Ollerenshaw, managing director of the Vapour Corner chain which is based in St Annes and has shops across the Fylde coast.
“There is no doubt that e-cigarettes get a bad press and it is about time they were publicly discussed and their benefits highlighted.
“I am all for regulations, including age limits, but they should simply be grouped with regular cigarettes in the public eye and I hope this report will help.
“We have grown to a total of 13 stores now since we started in 2012 and we are seeing more and more customers all the time.
“All of our shops offer advice on how vaping can help people give up smoking - how former smokers can gradually work their way down to zero nicotine and more and mire people welcome that opportunity.”
Callum Gelder of the Vape Store in Bispham Road, Bispham, added: “We believe people should take the time to find out more about e-cigarettes and how they can help smokers.
“Apart from the nicotine, the contents of the e-cigarettes are all natural.”
“We are helping more and more ex-smokers to gradually reduce their nicotine intake if they wish to and this report is very welcome.”
Although the report recognised that the long-term health effects of vaping were not yet known, it said e-cigarettes were substantially less harmful than conventional cigarettes because they contained no tar or carbon monoxide.
Norman Lamb, chairman of the science and technology committee, said that current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as one and the same.
He added: “Concerns that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to conventional smoking, including for young non-smokers, have not materialised.
“If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop smoking arsenal.
“E-cigarettes are a proven stop smoking tool and, while uncertainties undoubtedly remain about their long-term health impact, failing to explore the use of e-cigarettes could lead to the continued use of conventional cigarettes—which currently kill around 79,000 people in England every year.
“Medically licensed e-cigarettes would make it easier for doctors to discuss and recommend them as a stop smoking tool to aid those quitting smoking.”
E-cigarettes are not covered by the smoking legislation which, since July 2007 in England, has banned the use of cigarettes in all enclosed public and work places.
To encourage smokers to switch to vaping, Public Health England recommends e-cigarettes should not be treated the same as regular cigarettes when it comes to workplaces devising smoking policies.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE told the BBC: “E-cigarettes are not without harm but are way safer than the harms of tobacco.
“There is no evidence that they are acting as a gateway into smoking for young people.
“We want to see a tobacco-free generation within 10 years and this is within sight.”