WIRRAL's public health director has backed a new report showing vaping is safer than smoking - but insisted a ban on e-cigarettes in council-owned buildings should not be lifted.

Government health officials today published a review acknowledging for the first time that vaping is 95% less harmful than tobacco.

Public Health England said much of the public wrongly believes that e-cigs carry health risks in the same way cigarettes do.

Fiona Johnstone, Wirral's Director of Public Health said she welcomed the report: "It recognises the potential that e-cigarettes have in helping someone to stop smoking.

"Smoking is Wirral’s number one killer and the best thing a smoker can do is stop."

But she added: "The review doesn’t say there is no risk, rather that they should be seen as part of the harm reduction strategy for people who are smokers and want to quit.

"So we currently have no plans to review the decision to ban their use in council buildings.

“While e-cigarettes are not completely risk-free they are an important tool in helping smokers to quit.

"Our local, free stop smoking service remains the most effective way for people to quit. They will also work with e-cigarette users to support them to quit completely.

“Action to tackle smoking is a high priority for the council in its work to reduce the health inequalities caused by smoking.”

Health experts said that although GPs and stop smoking services are not able to prescribe or recommend e-cigarettes - as none of the products on the market are licensed for medicinal purposes - they hope the MHRA - Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - will do so soon.

They said there is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers, with almost all the 2.6m adults using them in Britain either current or ex-smokers, and most of them using the devices to help them quit or stop returning to tobacco.

The PHE-commissioned review said smoking among adults and youths continues to decline and e-cigarette use may be contributing to this.

But it said that as the evidence surrounding their safety has grown, distrust of the devices has increased among the public.

Professor Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University London and another independent author of the review, told a briefing in central London that nicotine carries very few health risks and is much less poisonous than previously believed.

He said the main health issues surrounding e-cigarettes concern other ingredients, contaminants and by-products, which can generate some toxicants - but these are at the very low levels found in the air that people generally breathe.

"My reading of the evidence is that smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health," he added.