The introduction of a tobacco control programme in Wirral has prompted a call for restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes.

While Government and local authorities continue to turn the screw on traditional smokers, the dramatic increase in the use of e-cigarettes has created an emerging challenge.

As e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco they do not come under regulations covering the ages of people who buy.

In a report to Wirral Council’s health and wellbeing board, head of public health Julie Webster said the recent phenomenon of e-cigarettes had led to pupils in one Lancashire town using them on school premises.

She commented: “No minimum age laws apply to sale. Although the packaging claimed they are nicotine free, there is no regulation of these products so the actual contents are unknown.”

Ms Webster reports: “The use of e-cigarettes is increasing year on year and there has been a decrease in access to stop smoking services and in use of other aids to smoking cessation such as licensed nicotine replacement therapy products.

“E-cigarettes are not regulated under smoke-free law in the UK.”

In her recommendations to the board, she urges councillors to ensure steps are taken to mitigate their impact by including sanctions against their use in local stop-smoking policies and to support any lobby to secure better restriction on their sale.

In the meantime the battle continues to reduce smoking across the UK where over 80,000 people die annually from its effects.

Each year in Wirral the estimated cost of smoking to society is around £95m. The cost to the NHS from smoking is £18.7m and the estimated cost of lost productivity from smoking-related sick days is more than £17m.