I am not a smoker.

Never in my life have I been privy to the heady chemical high that comes from sucking the end of a little white stick and blowing smoke from your nose like a dragon. Nor shall I experience the not so alluring side effects stained fingers and teeth, heightened risk of stroke, heart attack and all manner of cancers or spend up to f400 per month on what by all accounts is an incredibly dangerous hobby.

Nor am I one of those non smokers who doesn’t mind other people lighting up in my presence. I have no qualms about shielding my nose beneath my shirt, prefering to inhale my own body odour over their second hand puffings social norms be damned.

And nor am I sympathetic to the plight of this persecuted demographic. The days of bemoaning Big Tobacco advertising for their charming lies, or blaming addiction on ignorant folly, are long behind us. If you’re hooked on smoking, that’s your look out. We all heard the warnings.

But, before a legion of addicts make arrangements to extinguish their fag ends on my forehead, you should know that there is a burning issue on which I stand with you shoulder to shoulder. The proposed EU ban on electronic cigarettes, which may come into effect if three or more of the 28 member states prohibit their use is nothing short of unfair persecution.

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I m aware that times have never been tougher for the 21st century smoker. We threw you out of our pubs and restaurants, inflated prices exponentially, broadcast messages of doom on packets and even took them off display in shops, meaning every purchase, every puff, felt like you were participating in a shady drug deal.

But then a groundbreaking new technology hit the market, one that struck the sweet spot between still smoking and cold turkey, allowing smokers to, quite literally, come in from the cold.

Reported to be a f1.7bn industry across Europe, battery powered e cigarettes are now used by 1.3 million of the UK s estimated 10 million smokers, and they mimic old fashioned smoking by vapourising a liquid infused with nicotine, while coming in nice smelling flavours from mint to juicy peach. Granted, they re not perfect some are a visual cross between a fountain pen and Doctor Who s sonic screwdriver, and they have given rise to the abominable buzzword “vape”. But, given that experts claim they pose no known harm to others, they could potentially slash the 100,000 tobacco related deaths in the UK each year. Outlawing them would be kicking the wheezing smoker while he’s down.

With fresh government legislation banning the sale of electronic cigarettes to under 18s as of this week, the smoky squabble has taken on yet another dimension. And sure, this new law does make some sense, in that the long term health effects are still somewhat unknown and no one wants to glamourise or advocate any form of smoking to children. However, this is still just one side of the coin. Over 200,000 British children start smoking every year, according to anti smoking charity ASH, with two thirds of adult smokers admitting to first sparking up while under 16. Is it really wise to criminalise a device that regardless of the precise risks could be licensed as a medicine as early as 2016 and is the first step on the route to packing up for many? Or, as with the alleged health risks themselves, is no one actually all that sure?

Just as heroin addicts have methadone, the favoured way for smokers to wean themselves off addiction is via a safer alternative, and with e cigarettes both tobacco free and as effective as nicotine patches, the case against their use is not just cruel but petty.

Already outlawed in Norway and Brazil, one of the prevailing factors behind New York City s forthcoming e cigarette ban, which from April will prevent use of devices in bars, restaurants and public spaces, as with regular cigarettes, was that their use “normalises” the idea of smoking in the minds of impressionable youngsters. That idea is wildly offensive to both e cigarette users and impressionable youngsters.

Another gripe by critics is that the use of electronic cigarettes in restaurants could “confuse” other diners and muddle current smoking laws, as smokeless vapour can look similar to the real thing. It s a concern which, by the same logic, would eventually see sugar outlawed from coffee shops, because it looks a little bit like cocaine from a distance, and you wouldn’t want people stirring that into their capuccinos.

The sole argument holding any currency is that the proliferation of e cigarette advertising is akin to the old days of Big Tobacco marketing with flashy adverts splashed across newspaper spreads, celebrities eager to endorse them and vague messaging masking the actual effects. This may be true, but is this not a staple advertising tactic used by everyone from Ronald McDonald to the singing Satsuma offering high interest loans?

Regardless, if the saturation of e cig ads leads to yet more puffers swapping their B&H for a liquid stick and packet of batteries, then more power to them.

So come on EU, don t punish smokers actively trying to stub out their addiction they ve got enough on their plate dealing with militant non smokers like me, as they battle to spark up in a sub zero pub garden.

E-cigarettes to be banned for under-18s

Is it legal to resell cigarettes online?

Under 18s will be banned from buying electronic cigarettes under new Government plans aimed at cracking down on teenage smoking.

The announcement comes as e cigarettes are enjoying a boom in sales, with an estimated 1.3 million people in the UK thought to use them.

The law, which will be introduced next week as an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, will also make it illegal for adults to buy cigarettes on behalf of someone under 18.

Adults caught flouting the law could be given a f50 a fixed penalty notice or fined up to f2,500.

The move comes as Department of Health figures reveal that 41% of 15 year olds who smoke say they usually buy their cigarettes from other people rather than buying them from a shop.

And 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.

Public Health Minister and Conservative MP Jane Ellison said “Two thirds of smokers say they smoked regularly before they were 18, showing that this is an addiction largely taken up in childhood.

“We must do all we can to help children lead a healthy life. That&#39 s why this measure is designed to help protect children from the dangers of being bought cigarettes by irresponsible adults something that I hope concerned parents and responsible retailers will welcome.”

While many people view the tobacco free devices as a better alternative to traditional cigarettes, health experts remain concerned about the long term effects they could have on users&#39 health.

The long term effects of e cigarettes on people’s health are unknown

E cigarettes provide a hit of nicotine and some fear they reinforce the behaviour of smoking, making it harder to give up in the long term.

England&#39 s chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, 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&#39 s health.”

Currently there is no restriction on people under the age of 18 buying e cigarettes, and they are hugely popular among teenagers in Britain.

But it is feared that children are turning to the smokeless devices designed to help users quit before moving on to traditional cigarettes.

Many secondary schools across the UK have resorted to banning e cigarettes over fears they are encouraging pupils to take up smoking.

Smoking rates have fallen to their lowest ever, in the wake of the ban on smoking in public and a series of shocking public health campaigns highlighting the dangers of cigarettes.

But more than 1,000 people end up in hospital every day as a result of smoking, and experts have warned that the growth in e cigarettes could reverse some of the good work that has been done in tackling the habit.

Ministers hopes the new legislation will come into force by the autumn.

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