A Birmingham health official has accused the makers of e-cigarettes of targeting children – by introducing bubblegum and strawberry flavours.

More than 100 leading doctors and specialists from around the globe this week signed a letter to the World Health Organisation demanding the products come under the same tight controls as tobacco sales, with bans on advertising and promotion.

Now Dr Adrian Phillips, director of public health for Birmingham, has claimed the widening range of flavours on offer “adds weight to the suggestion that children and young people are being targeted.’’

He added: “It’s simply not acceptable that our kids are being used by big business just so they can make more money.”

Japan Tobacco became the latest tobacco company recently to enter the booming e-cigarette market, buying Bromsgrove-based E-Lites.

But Dr Phillips voiced fears people being targeted by ‘glamorous’ e-cigarette advertising will form the next generation of ‘nicotine addicts’.

He also called for urgent independent research into the health implications of the products.

“The big problem with e-cigarettes at the moment is that we simply do not know enough about the long term consequences of using them,’’ he said.

“Can we say for sure that they’re safe? If we can’t, should we allow promotion and advertising? We also know that some have been harmed by fires and other problems due to overheating.

“The companies promoting e-cigarettes say they can play a big role in harm reduction and helping smokers quit. We know there are plenty of anecdotal stories to back that up. But that’s not enough. We need real evidence.

“In the meantime, the marketing of these devices is glamorising smoking and nicotine addiction, which undermines the very real progress we’ve made since the smoking ban.

“We need in-depth independent research urgently, so that people can make informed decisions about the use of e-cigarettes. In the meantime, there are alternative ways to quit smoking and our Stop Smoking Service helps thousands of people a year.”