EYEBROWS were raised this week when it was revealed a huge house blaze was caused by an e-cigarette belonging to a young teenager.
The fire, which ripped through the semi-detached home in Edna Road, Leigh, after spreading from a bedroom to the loft, is believed to have been sparked by an electronic cigarette which had been left on charge by a 13-year-old friend of the family.
The house was gutted in the incident and a neighbour’s pet cat also perished.
While it is illegal to sell real cigarettes and tobacco to people under 18, it is different for the new anti smoking devices.
But the long term health risks of nicotine without smoke inhalation remain unknown, and the Government, after a clamour from doctors has now announced a major review of the devices.
There are now more than 1.4m e-cigarette devices in circulation in the UK.
Currently, because the technology has landed on these shores ahead of the legislation, e-cigarettes can be purchased by children (although the product labelling insists it is for over 18s only).
But that will change when such devices are brought into line with conventional tobacco, by law, later in the year when ministers also plan to make it illegal for adults to buy tobacco for under 18s.
While smoking rates have fallen to the lowest ever level, experts fear that the electronic substitutes popular across Wigan could be encouraging teenagers to take up the habit.
The battery powered devices, which can be brought on line and in some pubs, petrol stations or specialist shops of which there are now several across the borough.
The Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association said it would welcome changes in the law claiming it was the body that had been asking for statutes to regularise the industry.
Only when it was mandated in law could it be legally enforced, it said.
The anti smoking group ASH has called for a retail licensing system that would mean cigarettes could be legally sold only in dedicated e cigarette shops “not on car boots and open markets.”
Supporters of the devices claim that the Government is more concerned about the threat to millions of pounds worth of tobacco revenue per year, than the health of e-cigarette smokers.
From 2016 the Medication and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency is expected to license e-cigarettes as a medicine in the UK.
This will bring them into line with nicotine patches and gum and allow the agency to apply rules around the purity of the nicotine in e cigarettes.
Euro MPs have rejected calls, to date, for a blanket ban on their sale across the community.