Health experts fearing a clampdown on e-cigarettes said Friday a UN report on the device had exaggerated their health risk and underplayed their role as a safe alternative to tobacco.

The August 26 report by the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) said governments should ban the sale of so-called electronic cigarettes to minors, warning they posed a ‘serious threat’ to unborn babies and young people.

The WHO report, to be considered at a global meeting on tobacco control this year, also said e-cigs should be banned from indoor public spaces.

But tobacco specialists, writing in the journal Addiction on Friday, said the report was flawed. They said it was rooted in a bigger WHO-commissioned probe, the Background Paper on E-cigarettes, which they accused of bias and error. ‘We were surprised by the negativity of the commissioned review, and found it misleading and not an accurate reflection of available evidence,’ said Ann McNeill, a professor at the National Addiction Centre at King’s College London,