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A real drag as European Parliament threatens to take electronic cigarettes off the shelves

10 July 2013

A real drag as European Parliament threatens to take electronic cigarettes off the shelves

Electronic cigarettes – which are being increasingly used as a smoking ‘quit aid’ – risk being taken off the market by a short-sighted vote in the European Parliament that will classify them as a medicinal product, Conservative MEP Martin Callanan has warned.

Electronic cigarettes – which are being increasingly used as a smoking ‘quit aid’ – risk being taken off the market by a short-sighted vote in the European Parliament that will classify them as a medicinal product, Conservative MEP Martin Callanan has warned.

Today’s vote in the parliament’s environment and public health committee was intended to primarily look at ways of making tobacco smoking less attractive to young people, through mandatory warnings, minimum pack sizes, and rules on flavourings. However, the revision of the ‘Tobacco Products Directive’ would classify most electronic cigarettes as a medicinal product, despite the fact that in the UK alone 25 percent of all quit attempts were made using e-cigarettes, making them the most popular quit aid.

1.3 million people in the UK alone now use electronic cigarettes (compared to nine million tobacco smokers). Before the vote in the parliament today, users of e-cigarettes (known as vapers) protested, arguing that through e-cigarettes they were able to kick the tobacco habit.

Today’s vote classifying them as medical devices will mean they must undergo a costly and protracted authorisation processes. As many of the producers of e-cigarettes are small start-up businesses, such a process could push many out of business and reduce choice for e-cigarette users.

Mr Callanan, who was the European Conservatives and Reformists Group lead member on the directive, proposed an amendment that would see e-cigarettes authorised in a similar way to other nicotine products. Speaking after today’s vote, he said:

“It is preposterous to classify e-cigarettes as medical devices.

“Thousands of people have given up smoking thanks to e-cigarettes. For the EU to over regulate them is completely counter-productive and hypocritical.

“Electronic cigarette production has become lucrative for many small businesses and many jobs now depend on e-cigarette production. By making the authorisation procedure for e-cigarettes so difficult, many of these small businesses will pack up shop.

“This vote is not the end of this process and we will be working with vapers to make other MEPs see sense and support e-cigarette producers and users.

“The world has gone mad when tobacco is less regulated than products designed to end tobacco use.”

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