Why are researches calling e-cigarette warnings alarmist? According to the University College London’s team of researchers, for every million smokers who make the switch to e-cigarettes, they estimate over 6,000 lives could be saved.

The World Health Organizations recent attack on the e-cigarette industry claims that e-cigarette use increases the amount of toxins and nicotine in the air, and called for a ban on e-cig use in all public places including in work environments. The organization also claimed that e-cigarettes could act as a gateway by which non-smokers could be lead to smoking conventional cigarettes.

The team at University College London counters WHO claims by referencing the Smoking Toolkit study, a monthly survey of smokers in England, which states that less than 1% of non-smokers use e-cigarettes. Professor Robert West was quoted as saying that even though some toxins were present in vapor from e-cigarettes the concentrations were very low, “You have to be a bit crazy to carry on smoking conventional cigarettes when there are e-cigarettes available.” He went on to say, “The vapor contains nothing like the concentrations of carcinogens and toxins as cigarette smoke. In fact, concentrations are almost all well below a twentieth of cigarettes.”

If the roughly 9 million people who smoke in the UK used e-cigarettes rather than conventional cigarettes it could save 54,000 lives, based on the 60,000 premature deaths attributed to conventional cigarette usage, West said.

The concerns of West and other researchers were echoed by the National Addiction Centre based at King’s College London and the Tobacco Dependence Unit at Queen Mary University. Researchers at both institutions found some of the assumptions made by the WHO to be “misleading.”

“I think any responsible regulator proposing restricting regulation has to balance reducing risks with reducing potential benefits,” said Lead Researcher Professor Peter Hajek. “In this case the risks are unlikely, some already proven not to exist, while the benefits are potentially enormous. It really could be revolutionary intervention in public health if smokers switched from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes,” Hajek said.

The WHO has yet to respond to criticisms of their claims.

Professor John Ashton, President of the Faculty of Public Health has concerns, but does not wish to see a ban carried out, “We do want to be sure that any benefits [e-cigs] may have don’t undo all the hard work that’s been done over decades to save lives by reducing smoking. We are particularly concerned that ‘vaping’ may lead to young people starting to smoke cigarettes.” Although he admits, “At the moment, there is very little hard data about e-cigarettes; until we get some solid facts on their impact on people’s health, we need proper regulation.”

How do you feel about e-cigarettes and their ability to act as a gateway? Will they save lives or attract young users? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below or tweet us @DolceVapes.