Australian health experts say Australia should continue to be cautious about its approach to e-cigarettes after a WHO report warned of their health hazards

Experts have welcomed a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report on electronic cigarettes recommending a ban on the sale of the products to minors.

The WHO report released on Tuesday warns that e-cigarettes pose a “serious threat” to foetuses and young people.

The UN health body also recommends that the cigarette-shaped electrical devices be banned from public indoor spaces “until exhaled vapour is proven to be not harmful to bystanders”.

In Australia it’s illegal to sell e-cigarettes with nicotine.

South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland also prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes that do not contain nicotine and come in a variety of fruit, confectionery and other flavours.

Curtin University professor of health policy Mike Daube described the WHO paper as “thorough, comprehensive and important”.

“The clear conclusion is that we should be very cautious about any developments around e-cigarettes,” said Prof Daube, who is also president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH).

“The reality is that these products are still new, the potential benefits are still in doubt and there are significant concerns about possible short and long-term harms.”

Professor Simon Chapman from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health said there has been monumental hype circulating about the promises of e-cigarettes as a breakthrough in helping smokers quit.

“The best and largest study so far shows that 80 per cent of smokers who tried to quit using e-cigarettes in the past 12 months did not succeed,” said Prof Chapman.

“This was only marginally better than the success rate of smokers quitting cold turkey.”