Public health announcements that e-cigarettes are "95 per cent less harmful than tobacco" were based on flawed science and a study that included experts in the pay of the e-cigarettes industry.
Public Health England (PHE) made the announcement last week following a "landmark review" of the evidence, and is calling for e-cigarettes to be made available on the National Health Service for existing cigarette smokers.
But the extensive review included just two sources: a briefing paper to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pharmacy, and a study that was published with a warning about some of its findings, and which included several scientists paid by the e-cigarettes industry, The Lancet medical journal has claimed.
It said the paper, on which the PHE based its recommendations, had an "extraordinarily flimsy foundation". Furthermore, one of the researchers was working as a consultant to Arbi Group, an e-cigarette distributor, and another was a consultant to several manufacturers of smoking-cessation products.
While e-cigarettes may be less harmful than tobacco, the PHE has fallen down in its duty to rely only on the highest-quality evidence, the Lancet said.
(Source: The Lancet, 2015; 386: 829)