Regulation of electronic cigarettes at the european level

Magda D bska

According to survey of over 20 000 Polish students, one fifth of them have tried e cigarettes. No one questions that electronic cigarettes have become more attractive recently to compare with nicotine replacement therapies. They are available to purchase in various retail channels and over the Internet. Consumers considered them as attractive substitute of normal cigarettes and start using them in social situation. However, the market for e cigarettes appears the next field where the interest of industry and the European Institutions are confronted.

How do electronic cigarettes work?

Electronic cigarettes are customized to needs of people who do not want smoke tobacco but cannot or do not want overcome their nicotine addiction. They do not contain tobacco and there is no combustion, and as a consequence there is no smoke and odour. Consumers inhale a vapour that usually consists of propylene glycol, nicotine and flavourings. Therefore, the users prefer to describe themselves as a vaper than smokers .

Although the market for electronic cigarettes is growing rapidly, there are not sufficient data concerning their safety. Only within the European Union the value of electronic cigarettes market is estimated at 400 500 million euros. However, the European Commission warns consumers against dishonest producers. It appears that many electronic cigarettes included traces of nicotine despite that some of them are labelled as nicotine free . Moreover, ingredients of the liquid are not often published and they are not controlled in terms of safety and quality.

Regulation of electronic cigarettes in the European Union

There is no common regulation concerning electronic cigarettes within the European Union so far. The particular Members States take different approaches to the issue. Greece and Lithuania chose the way of complete prohibition of these products due to lack of sufficient evidence of safety. Malta regulates electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, whereas other fourteen Members States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden) consider them as medicinal products. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia, Spain and United Kingdom have no specific rules in this matter and treat electronic cigarettes as consumer products. Poland is the only one country in Europe that bans advertising for electronic cigarettes. The European Commission s proposals submitted to the European Parliament and Council aimed at revision of Tobacco Products Directive and classified electronic cigarettes as medicinal products. However, the electronic cigarettes industry claims that these products should be regulated as consumer products because they are neither tobacco nor medicinal products. Moreover, such regulation enables producers to attract consumers through appropriate design, labeling and advertising campaign. At this moment, Commission s proposal is discussed within the EP s Environment Committee.

Main References

Gregor Erbach, Library Briefing, Library of the European Parliament 27/03/2013

The eu’s insane mission to ban menthol cigarettes

By Simon Clark

Last month public health minister Anna Soubry met her match in the form of fellow Conservative MP Bill Cash. Members of the European scrutiny committee, which he chairs, were furious she had denied them the opportunity to discuss draft proposals to revise the European Commission’s tobacco products directive.

Instead, and without the committee’s approval, Soubry presumptuously agreed a general response to the directive at a meeting of European health ministers in Luxembourg on June 21st.

Summoned to explain herself, she told the Committee she was sorry things had not been done properly. Cash however was in no mood for apologies. He told her &#34 We take a decision to override scrutiny very seriously indeed, especially when it concerns a proposal of such importance.&#34

The issue at stake was the committee’s role in scrutinising important legislation before it is imposed on Britain by the regulation hungry European parliament. Desperate to progress the controversial tobacco products directive before the end of Ireland’s six month presidency of the European Council, Soubry had requested waivers from the scrutiny committees in both Houses. The Lords agreed but the Commons scrutiny committee said no.

So what did Soubry do? She brazenly ignored their decision and travelled to Luxemburg where a meeting of health ministers on June 21st agreed, among other things, to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and increase the size of health warnings on all tobacco products throughout the European Union.

If passed by MEPs in September, the tobacco products directive will also prohibit smaller pouches of roll your own tobacco and severely restrict the shape and size of cigarette packets.

It beggars belief that any Conservative minister would support such severe regulations on a legal product, even one as controversial as tobacco. To allow the EU to impose them, whilst denying any scrutiny of the legislation in Westminster, invites ridicule and contempt.

For years some of us have warned that some public health campaigners and politicians will only be happy when the sale and consumption of tobacco is prohibited and smoking is made illegal. Clearly, we are on the road to prohibition when an entire category, menthol flavoured tobacco, is to be outlawed.

This and other regulations in the directive could have serious repercussions for British retailers, many of whom will struggle with the loss of business. If the products under threat are banned, some UK shops could see 20 per cent of their usual stock of tobacco removed from the shelves. How will they replace the revenue they earn from those products?

The impact of the legislation will also be felt by millions of law abiding consumers who will be denied the choice they once took for granted. Criminal gangs will of course be only too happy to meet demand on the black market, but that’s another matter.

This week the smokers’ group Forest launched a new campaign that will give consumers and retailers in Britain a much needed voice against the latest EU Directive. It’s calledNoThankEU and it follows the successful Hands Off Our Packs campaign on plain packaging.

The campaign website has more information but here are five reasons to oppose the tobacco products directive

1. Have we learned nothing from history? Prohibition doesn’t work.
2. Excessive regulation will deny consumers choice and drive them to the black market.
3. Criminal gangs will make a fortune manufacturing and selling prohibited products.
4. Don’t let the EU impose an extreme regulatory agenda on UK consumers.
5. What next alcohol, sugary drinks, convenience food?

Meanwhile, Cash believes there has been a breach of the rules. I would put it a little stronger than that and I sincerely hope Soubry and the relevant civil servants are held to account.

But whether she survives as public health minister is neither here nor there. What matters is that no British parliament should meekly roll over when the European Union tries to impose on the UK legislation that strikes at the very heart of our mature, consumer friendly society.

That’s the bigger picture and I hope that even non smokers might agree with that.

Simon Clark is director of the smokers lobby group Forest. He is also author of theTaking Liberties blog. To register your support for the campaign against the tobacco products directive, visit


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