Tobacco or medicinal product? europe divided over e-cigarettes

BRUSSELS Should electronic cigarettes be regulated as tobacco products? Or are they medicinal devices that should only be sold in pharmacies?

That s the debate brewing in Europe after a vote on October 8 by the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

As part of a legislative package aimed at discouraging young people from smoking tobacco, European lawmakers approved a draft law that would regulate the marketing of electronic cigarettes.

The bill still must be approved by the 28 European Union government leaders in the European Council.

The council recommended in June that e cigarettes should be regulated as medicinal products that could help smokers quit a step that would make the devices available only in pharmacies.

But after intense lobbying from the growing electronic cigarette industry, which includes powerful global tobacco companies, the European Parliament refused to heed the council s recommendation.

Instead, lawmakers in Strasbourg voted for the marketing of e cigarettes to be regulated in the same way that tobacco marketing is regulated.

That means sales of e cigarettes to children under 18 would be banned in the European Union, along with most advertising. Health warning labels also would be required.

But the smokeless vaporizing devices and their nicotine cartridge refills could still be sold in tobacco shops and specialist stores.

What Comes Next?

The vote has set the stage for an e cigarette tussle in Brussels. Will the council agree that e cigarettes should be treated like tobacco? Or will the council continue to insist that e cigarettes should be regulated as medicinal devices?

MEP Linda McAvan, a member of Britain s Labour Party, will serve as the European Parliament s rapporteur during negotiations on the issue with the European Council.

McAvan says all members of the European parliament agree that e cigarettes cannot be unregulated on the market. The debate boils down to how they should be regulated.

McAvan says she is certain there is a basis for compromise with EU governments that insist on medicinal regulations.

“Obviously, the European parliament has got a position which is the opposite of that in the sense that it is to be not medicines,” she says. “But at the same time, there are some common elements which are that there should be a regulatory framework. So I think we have to start a dialogue. It s difficult to predict what my colleagues in the European Parliament would accept and what the governments in the European Council will accept. But we ll start those negotiations quite soon.”

Research shows that about 85 percent of e cigarette users start because they want to wean themselves off the habit of smoking tobacco.

The devices vaporize liquid from cartridges that contain different amounts of nicotine, allowing users to gradually reduce their nicotine consumption.

E cigarette consumers say they are “vaping,” rather than smoking.

Helpful Or Harmful?

“It is probably less harmful because it doesn&#39 t contain any byproducts from the burning of tobacco,” one e cigarette user in the Czech capital, Prague, told RFE/RL. “It&#39 s also cheaper. And it&#39 s not smoking. It is something completely different and it takes some getting used to. I have given up tobacco completely. I haven&#39 t smoked a cigarette for 18 months now. And I started smoking when I was 15, so it had been more than 40 years of smoking .”

But Francesco Blasi, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University of Milan and the former president of the European Respiratory Society, told RFE/RL that e cigarettes are still too new to be sure about the long term health implications.

Roll-your-own cigarettes in europe : use, weight and implications for fiscal policies – opus


Gallus, S., Lugo, A., Ghislandi, S., La Vecchia, C. and Gilmore, A. B. C., 2014. Roll your own cigarettes in Europe Use, weight and implications for fiscal policies. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 23 (3), pp. 186 192.

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Excise duties on roll your own (RYO) tobacco, which are generally based on RYO cigarettes containing 1 g of tobacco, are lower than duties on factory made (FM) cigarettes. This provides a price incentive for smokers to switch to RYO, the use of which is increasing across Europe. To effectively approximate duties on the two types of products, accurate data on the weight of RYO cigarettes are required. We provide updated information on RYO use and RYO cigarette weight across Europe. From a representative face to face survey conducted in 2010 in 18 European countries (Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, England, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden), we considered data from 5158 current smokers aged 15 years or above, with available information on daily consumption of FM and RYO cigarettes separately. In Europe, 10.4% of current smokers (12.9% of men and 7.5% of women) were ‘predominant’ RYO users (i.e. >50% of cigarettes smoked). This proportion was highest in England (27.3%), France (16.5%) and Finland (13.6%). The median weight of one RYO cigarette is 0.75 g (based on 192 smokers consuming exclusively RYO cigarettes). The proportion of RYO smokers is substantial in several European countries. Our finding on the weight of RYO cigarettes is consistent with the scientific literature and industry documents showing that the weight of RYO cigarettes is substantially lower than that of FM ones. Basing excise duties on RYO on an average cigarette weight of 0.75 g rather than 1 g would help increase the excise levels to those on FM cigarettes.