Eu hasn’t banned menthol cigarettes despite claims

by Steve Hynd

Always eager to break a story, the blog Guido Fawkes ran with this headline ‘EU Agrees Ban on Menthol Cigarettes’ today.

As this story breaks, I am sure that you will see comparable headlines cropping up in newspapers across the UK.

The problem is, the story isn t really true. At best it is preemptive. The EU simply has not banned menthol cigarettes.

So what has happened? The Council of Ministers has met and voted to support a proposal to ban menthol cigarettes (although some Ministers such as the Polish Minister has opposed the move).

This proposal will not become law unless the European Parliament votes it through.

You might at this point think I am being a little bit over the top? A mere technicality you say!

But think of this another way. Would a UK publication run the headline, British Parliament agrees ban on xxx if in actual fact only the House of Lords (one third of the British Parliament) had actually voted on it? No, of course not, it would be wildly misleading.

So why the different approach for EU related affairs? The Council of Ministers makes up just one third of major EU institutions and yet publications run headlines claiming it represents the whole of the EU.

The difference is of course that most Brits don t know what the Council of Ministers is, let alone what it does and so are incapable and unwilling to hold the papers and politicians to account.

PS there is more info by Andy Carling here.

Eu goes light on e-cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes won’t be tightly regulated as medical devices in Europe, lawmakers there decided.

Officials had proposed restricting direct sales to consumers, classifying the devices alongside nicotine patches and other smoking cessation products that require a prescription.

The European Parliament struck down that proposal, though, voting Tuesday to regulate them much as they do conventional cigarettes, with only the usual marketing, packaging, and 18 and older age restrictions.

While the lawmakers also voted to tighten restrictions on smoking tobacco packaging and menthol flavoring, e cigarettes were considered the main question.

In the U.S., the FDA is also weighing how to deal with the increasingly popular nicotine vapor devices

The agency has said it will issue proposed regulations on e cigarettes soon, a move that was widely expected by the end of October but may be delayed by shutdown related furloughs at the chronically understaffed agency.

It tried to regulate e cigarettes as medical devices but acquiesced in 2011 to an appeals court ruling that as long as no health claims are made for the products they only fit under the agency’s authority to regulate tobacco.

Individual European Union member states have attempted to quash sales through tight regulation or outright bans, but these have typically been struck down by legal action.

The amended Tobacco Products Directive now has to be agreed upon by E.U. government ministers and voted on again by the parliament, but no meaningful opposition is expected.

These moves have been carefully watched as other public health agencies around the world are trying to get a handle on e cigarettes, which are often targeted to smokers wanting to quit.

A recent study indicated the devices were at least equal to nicotine patches in that regard, although other studies show there still is an impact on lung function despite elimination of carcinogenic tobacco smoke.

The FDA has previously warned e cigarette manufacturers against making claims that the devices help smokers quit.