E-Cigarette Legislation on European Horizon

Electronic cigarettes would be regulated as “medical products” under legislation pending in the EU. Under the proposed law, most electronic cigarettes would be regulated based upon their nicotine levels. The proposal is similar to legislation passed in Holland and Germany, both of which were rejected by the courts. Under the proposed legislation, the electronic cigarettes would be regulated if their nicotine levels exceeded 2 mg or 4 mg per litre.

Many believe that the proposed legislation is nothing more than a money grab by the pharmaceutical industry. It is thought that the relatively inexpensive e-cigarettes are competition against regulated products such as nicotine patches and even anti-depressants. It is thought that the legislation would prevent smaller electronic cigarette distributors from competing, since they don’t have the resources to meet the regulatory burden.

Many smokers have switched to electronic cigarettes and are satisfied with them. And there is growing evidence that the electronic cigarettes are much safer. For example, many, such as the Royal College of Physicians, side with the electronic cigarette industry. The electronic cigarette delivers nicotine, a relatively benign drug by itself, without up to 4000 other potentially hazardous chemicals. The Royal College notes that if all smokers in Britain switched to electronic cigarettes, it would save nearly five million lives. Non-smoking critics of the legislation also point out that if e-cigarettes replace traditional cigarettes, this would result in less secondhand smoke.

Critics of the legislation point out that it has little to do with public health. Instead, it amounts to an excuse to tax electronic cigarettes. These critics point to the large number of pharmeceutical lobbyists at work in Brussells. They point out that the vested economic interests of the industry far outweigh the medical benefits.

These critics also point to the fate of the supplement industry, which was largely shut down in the EU due to legislation favoring the pharmaceutical industry.