Call for restrictions on sale of electronic cigarettes to children
Restrictions should be placed on the sale of electronic cigarettes to prevent them being bought by children, according to an MSP.
The SNP's Stewart Maxwell said there was no age limit on buying e-cigarettes - although many contained nicotine.
He wants the Scottish government to see if anything can be done to close this loophole.
The MSP has also called for the UK government to set out firmer rules on the advertising of such products.
Sales of tobacco-free cigarettes have boomed worldwide since bans on smoking in public places were introduced.
Health campaigners have said their growing popularity could undermine years of anti-smoking efforts, with particular concerns about promotion to children and non-smokers.
But others have argued the electronic alternative to tobacco could help save hundreds of thousands of lives.
End Quote Stewart Maxwell MSP SNP
We cannot have a situation where we return to the bad old days where nicotine products were glamorised in advertising”
Research suggests about 1.3m smokers and ex-smokers in the UK use the products, which are designed to replicate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco.
E-cigarettes turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapour that is inhaled.
Mr Maxwell said an answer to a Westminster parliamentary question revealed that there were currently no age restrictions affecting the sale of e-cigarettes.
"There is a real and worrying grey area when it comes to e-cigarettes that needs to be addressed," he said.
"It cannot be right that these nicotine-containing products can be legally marketed and sold to children.
"There is a worrying loophole here that needs to be tightened up as a matter of urgency. I will be seeking a meeting with the Scottish government minister for public health to see if anything can be done in Scotland to close this loophole in the sale of these products, but clearly there is also need for action at Westminster."
Electronic cigarettes will be licensed as a medicine in the UK from 2016 under new regulations to be introduced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulation Agency, the body which regulates medicines in the UK.
The UK currently has few restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes, despite moves in some countries to ban them.
Mr Maxwell added: "Scotland currently does not have the power to restrict the advertising of these products, something that is vital if this issue is to be tackled properly.
"All our experience with tobacco products shows that advertising plays a huge role in how products like this are perceived. We cannot have a situation where we return to the bad old days where nicotine products were glamorised in advertising.
"There needs to be firmer rules on what exactly is permitted, so that we do not find ourselves in a position where products that encourage nicotine addiction are ever seen as healthy or beneficial."
A spokesman for the Scottish government said: "We will continue to consider what further advice and guidance may be required on electronic cigarettes for the benefit of public health in Scotland and the minister for public health, Michael Matheson, would be happy to meet Mr Maxwell to discuss this matter."