RESTRICTIONS on e-cigarettes should not discourage smokers from using the devices to quit tobacco products MSPs have been told.

A bill going through the Scottish Parliament is proposing age restrictions on e-cigarettes and considering how to regulate advertising of the products.

At the Parliament's Health Committee, experts and campaigners pro and anti-smoking accepted the nicotine vapour products are not as damaging as tobacco products and can help people quit smoking.

Pro smoking lobby group Freedom of the right to enjoy smoking tobacco (Forest) argued that the age limit should be set at 16 and not 18, the legal age for buying tobacco.

Simon Clark, director of Forest said: “We are opposed to excessive restrictions of e-cigarettes. It make sense to encourage people to switch not to force, but it seems counter productive to restrict advertising.

“As more evidence comes to the fore that e-cigarettes are less harmful it might be courageous stance for the Scottish government to create a marker to set the age at 16. Some children will experiment and it may want to nudge them to e-cigarettes.

If you are allowing people to vote at 16 maybe they are old enough to decide whether or not to use e-cigarettes at 16.”

Linda Bould, Professor of Health Policy, from Stirling University said trials had shown e-cigarettes were more effective method of quitting smoking than willpower alone or nicotine patches.

She said she was in favour of an 18 age limit.

She said: “There is universal acceptance we need age restriction to bring Scotland into line with the rest of the UK.

“There is no reason why a child who has never used nicotine should start using e-cigarettes.”

She said advertising was necessary to allow and encourage smokers to quit by switching to e-cigarettes.

She added: “We need a balance between supporting young people to stop smoking and preventing people who have never smoked taking it up.”

Labour MSP, Dr Richard Simpson cautioned there was not enough known about the effects of e-cigarettes and warned that at one time tobacco was seen as beneficial to health.

The Bill would also ban smoking in hospital grounds which prompted forest to attack the Scottish government proposals.

Richard Lyle SNP MSP said there was no reason why there couldn’t be a designated smoking area within hospital grounds far away from the entrance.

Mr Clark agreed.

He said: “It is inhumane, vindictive and petty. To extend a ban to the entire site is outrageous.”

Judith Duffy of anti-smoking group ASH however said:” The aim is to put smoking out of mind and out of fashion.”

She added “The call for a ban on smoking in hospital grounds came from clinicians.

“The magnitude of this epidemic responsible for tens of thousands of deaths a year shouldn’t be under estimated.”