In a landmark decision, members of the European Parliament have rejected a plan to unilaterally regulate e cigarettes as medicinal products. The news comes amid heightened debate over the safety of e cigarettes. In France, just as elsewhere, e cigarette use is on the rise and boutique stores are emerging on major cities. Due to the emerging trend, French lawmakers are considering making vaping (the term for “smoking” one of the smokeless e cigarettes) indoors illegal, a move being mirrored in other countries. Rejecting the regulation doesn’t affect that decision, but had the proposal been made law, e cigarette sales would be restricted and the devices have been subject to different tax grades.
The e cigarette vote was one part of a larger round of decisions on tobacco regulation. While e cigarettes emerged unscathed, tobacco products will be subject to tighter control. In a plan to make cigarettes less appealing to children and adults alike, menthol and other flavored cigarettes will be banned within five years. A proposal to outlaw boxes of 10 cigarettes, an especially popular product in the UK, failed, with the European Parliament opting to “recommend” boxes of 20 cigarettes or more. Many member states already require larger cigarette counts in boxes, with the UK and Italy being outliers.
Tobacco regulations and health warnings will be dramatically increased
The final major decision of the day came in regards to printed health warnings. Under new laws, cigarette manufacturers will have to cover 65 percent of each box with EU approved warnings, an increase from before. It was hoped that MEPs would vote to cover 75 percent of each both with warnings, with 65 percent being the minimum accepted.
Todays vote is an important step along the road to adopting the new laws. When it comes into effect, the regulatory package represents only a minimum standard. Individual nations are free to impose tighter regulations, but must at least adhere to the minimum figures. For example, the UK has already stated it plans to license e cigarettes as medicinal from 2016 onwards, and today’s decision doesn’t necessarily change anything for British authorities. Similarly, Belgium already forces manufacturers to cover 75 percent of each cigarette box with health warnings.
- Source BBC Le Monde (FR)
- Image Credit Dalecav (Flickr / Creative Commons)
- Related Items europe regulation smoking european union eu european parliament e cigarette tobacco vaping mep
Eu law on e-cigarettes has been made on the back of a fag packet : european conservatives and reformists group
ECR MEP Martin Callanan has hit out after the European Parliament voted to heavily over regulate many electronic cigarettes, in a move that he warns is likely to send e cigs users back to more harmful tobacco.
MEPs today held their final vote on the Tobacco Products Directive, which sets out a number of measures to discourage younger people from taking up smoking, such as larger pack warnings and a ban on flavourings. However, MEPs have also voted to introduce 14 pages of new red tape on e cigs (which deliver nicotine using vapour to avoid many of the harmful side effects of smoking such as tar, smoke and carbon monoxide). The new rules will ban refillable e cigs (which comprise a large component of the e cigs market), if only three EU countries ban them. It would also restrict all but the weaker e cigarettes (20 mg/ml nicotine), which would risk cigarette users going back to cigarettes in order to achieve the same nicotine hit .
Mr Callanan has fought a long campaign for e cigarettes to be regulated in a manner proportionate to the evidence that exists on them. He has received thousands of emails and letters from users who argue that the products have enabled them to move off of tobacco.
Last October, when the matter first came to a vote in the parliament, Conservative MEPs fought off efforts to force e cigs to undergo a medicinal authorisation procedure that would have placed many small manufacturers under threat. However, despite the vote of the parliament in favour of e cigs, the Commission and a few MEPs took it upon themselves to add a whole new article to the directive during the late night closed doors negotiations between the parliament and national governments seeking the agreement necessary to pass the proposals into law.
Speaking after today’s vote, which is expected to become law by 2016, Mr Callanan said
“E cigs are not healthy, but they are surely far better for you than smoking tobacco. We have fought for sensible regulation on e cigs that recognises the role they have played in taking many thousands of people off of smoking.
“The parliament voted for e cigs to be lightly regulated until we know what regulation might be required. Yet sneaky MEPs and commission officials sneaked a whole raft of red tape into back room negotiations without discussing them with e cigs users or other MEPs. We have drafted huge parts of this law on the back of a fag packet with decisions about smoke filled rooms ironically being made in smoke filled rooms in Brussels.
“The majority of the Tobacco Products Directive is on the zealous end of the scale but we could have accepted it. However, what we could not accept is the draconian restrictions on e cigs that were adopted. I believe we have completely failed to deliver the aim of discouraging smoking. By making it harder for smokers to get hold of e cigs of the strength they require, we just increase the chance of them resuming smoking tobacco.”