European lawmakers: good news and bad news for e-cigarettes

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, has approved comprehensive tobacco regulations to curb smoking in Europe. The rules include a ban on menthol cigarettes and new restrictions on electronic cigarettes.

The law isn’t final it still has to be reviewed by other branches of the European Union’s government. But its passage means that a the hotly contested debate over tobacco products in Europe is finally nearing an end.

Defenders of the smokeless tobacco product, speaking to the New York Times , cheered Parliament’s decision to spare e cigarettes from a proposal to regulate them as medical devices, which would have restricted their sale to pharmacies in some countries.

But the measure imposed stricter limits on advertising in Europe, a subject that is sure to be controversial in the U.S. as well.

The European vote is a step in the right direction” Craig Weiss, the CEO of NJOY, a market leader in the American e cigarette market wrote in an email. “At the same time, we are concerned about the proposed advertising restrictions. It is critical that companies like NJOY be able to fully inform tobacco smokers that they have an alternative.

American tobacco companies have endured tough advertising restrictions since 1970, including a ban on television advertising that does not extend to e cigarettes. E cigarette makers, taking advantage of the current lack of regulation, have expanded their marketing efforts. In the first quarter of 2013, according to Kantar Media, spending on e cigarette advertising rose to $15.7 million in the U.S., up from $2 million in the same period last year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will not regulate electronic cigarettes as medical devices either, but it has set a deadline to begin the process of regulating them as tobacco product by the end of October, a deadline that could be pushed back by the government shutdown. TIME explored the coming regulations in an investigation in September. Restrictions on print, radio, and television advertising are a possibility.

Healthmatters european parliament refuses to classify e-cigarettes as a drug

The European parliament has strongly backed moves to make smoking less attractive to young people but has rejected the health commissioner’s call to have electronic cigarettes classified as medicines.

The MEPs vote on Tuesday, 8th October came after months of lobbying by major tobacco manufacturers to try to water down and delay the European Union’s attempts to strengthen the existing legislation on tobacco products.

MEPs agreed that in future clear health warnings should cover at least 65% of both sides of a pack of cigarettes and packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes would be banned.

Flavourings such as vanilla, strawberry and menthol, designed to mask the taste of tobacco and make products attractive to young people would also be banned but only after the legislation had come into force.

However, the commissioner failed in his attempt to have e cigarettes classified as medicines with all the regulation that this designation would impose. British Liberal Democrat and Conservative MEPs successfully opposed the move which they said, would have increased the cost of e cigarettes and reduced their availability.

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Editorial comment. An interesting development which demonstrates the power of the tobacco industry in lobbying in its own interests. The industry is clearly an anti health force to be reckoned with. But, looking at the bigger picture, smoking e cigarettes is much safer than smoking normal ones and for some nicotine addicts is a more acceptable way of obtaining nicotine gratification than through patches or chewing gum. So, on balance, I think the European parliament made the right decision. Paul Walker