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cigarette debate rages on as experts clash over their safety There is heated debate about the safety of e-cigarettes as some people believe them to be a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes while others are deeply concerned about them It shows that on one side some cancer experts think the electronic alternative to cigarettes could save millions of lives, while other people are seriously worried about them. Glenn Thomas of the WHO told Tonight: 'We still need more research to know and understand what sort of impact on health and people these e-cigarettes are having. 'We know that a lot of the toxins which are consumed through e-cigarettes have not been adequately researched.' The WHO looked at 85 countries and discovered that, currently, more than a third have a total ban on e-cigarettes, almost 40 per cent won't allow them to be sold to children and only 15 per cent of countries have conducted scientific research into them. Despite so many countries showing concerns about the devices, some experts believe they are a lesser evil when compared to traditional cigarettes. Professor Robert West, from Cancer Research UK, said: 'Cigarettes at the moment are killing in the region of six million people every year. 'Can you imagine if every one of those cigarette smokers used an electronic cigarette instead - we would see the death toll drop. 'You are talking about potentially saving millions of lives a year - a public health benefit we could hardly have dreamed of years ago.' He added: 'While you get people say that we don't know yet whether e-cigarettes are safe, the answer is we know what the ingredients are that are within them and we know that those are, nothing is perfectly safe, but compared with a cigarette they are 100 times safer if not more.' Kingsley Wheaton from British American Tobacco said: 'We agree there needs to be more long term studies of the use of e-cigarettes. 'We believe that as they are today - and we believe that there are various part of the scientific community that would agree with us - that they provide a substantially safer alternative to smoking a traditional cigarette.' Regardless of the health impacts, many of Britain's biggest companies have felt required to ban e-cigarettes because they look too similar to the tobacco versions. Kate McGown from McDonalds said: 'Owing to the fact that e-cigarettes can be very realistic and customers may naturally assume that someone is actually smoking on our premises, we do not permit use of e-cigarettes in our UK restaurants.' Newcastle's Metrocentre and Lakeside in Essex have the same policy. Karen Can, of Metrocentre, said: 'We made this decision to avoid any confusion to shoppers and security staff as they can look very realistic from a distance.' The Slug and Lettuce pub chain has recently followed Wetherspoons in a ban, saying: 'Given their remarkable likeness to cigarettes, their use can cause concern amongst other customers and staff.' The vast Mitchells Butlers pub chain, which includes Harvester, O'Neills, All Bar One and Browns, told the Tonight programme: 'Although we realise that the fumes are just vapours and non-harmful this is not clearly understood by everyone and can lead to confusion.' It seems the position of these companies is in keeping with the views of many Britons. Some 33 per cent say that it is not socially acceptable to smoke an e-cigarette in public while 42 per cent think they set a bad example. Furthermore, 45 per cent of people say e-cigarettes should not be allowed in indoor public places and 12 per cent say they do not really know what an e-cigarette is.