LONDON – Health officials in Britain have for the first time endorsed e-cigarettes, saying they are 95 percent safer than tobacco equivalents and even suggesting doctors should be able to prescribe the “game-changing” devices to smokers trying to quit. E-cigarettes, which allow users to inhale nicotine-laced vapour but contain no tobacco, have surged in popularity in recent years but health bodies have so far been wary of advocating them as a safer alternative. Governments from California to India have tried to regulate their use more strictly, many fearing they are a gateway to tobacco smoking among teenagers, and the World Health Organization has also called for curbs on the devices. But in a study published on Wednesday, Public Health England (PHE) an agency of Britain’s Department of Health, backed their use. “E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm,” said PHE’s Professor Kevin Fenton in a statement. The study said that since most of the chemicals that cause smoking-related diseases are absent in e-cigarettes, with the current best estimate that e-cigarette use is around 95 percent less harmful to health than smoking, governments should offer them to people…
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