Vaping should be allowed in hospital grounds and in certain public places to prevent misleading messages over the harm of using e-cigarettes, public health experts say.
Calls have been made for a re-think on restriction of e-cigarettes, which are currently banned in many places where smoking is forbidden such as hospital grounds, mental health facilities and workplaces.
Public health expert Linda Bauld has argued in the Tobacco Control journal that there was little evidence to support the ban, which could be having significant unintended consequences by sustaining the use of tobacco.
Professor Bauld, of Stirling University, said: “By treating e-cigarettes like tobacco, and banning them in certain places, it gives a message to the public about them being as dangerous as smoking.
“When people made some of these early policies, it was a bit of wild west out there. We need to be shaping these choices based on new evidence.”
Smoking was banned in all Scottish hospital grounds in 2015 but individual health boards can choose whether to allow e-cigarette use.
Tayside hospitals are to join both NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in allowing vaping on site, while Fife and Lanarkshire have decided to keep the ban.
Public health experts from Sydney University, Australia, argue in an accompanying editorial that the case centres on “gossamer-thin evidence” that vaping emissions are benign.
They warned against normalising vaping and encouraging non-smokers to start.
However, the Royal College of Physicians has said vaping could benefit public health as the risks are less than 5 per cent of those linked to smoking traditional cigarettes.
But anti-smoking campaigners urged caution over changing vaping policy, particularly in places where there are children or people with health conditions.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said: “E-cigarettes are still fairly new and we don’t have a clear picture of their long-term effects.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are aware that the use of e-cigarettes can help smokers to quit, but they are not risk-free.
“That is why the Scottish Government has legislated to regulate the sale and promotion of these consumer products through the Health Act 2016. We will continue to monitor emerging evidence on e-cigarettes.”