The mandate of the EU parliamentary committee was to discuss and vote on measures such as mandatory warnings, controls on flavourings and minimum pack sizes intended to make smoking tobacco less attractive to the youth. The relook at the ‘Tobacco Products Directive’ in the EU ended in revising the classification of most e-cigarettes under the broad heading medicinal products.
This was done even though around 25% of smokers looking to quit smoking, employ e-cigarettes to help them in their efforts, making the device the most popular aid.
What was proposed initially by the European Commission was that only e-cigarettes containing nicotine in excess of 4 milligrammes should be classified as e-cigarettes. The parliamentary committee did away with the dual classification and voted to regulate all e-cigarettes as pharmaceuticals.
There have been protests from users of electronic cigarettes who point out that they were able to quit the tobacco habit only by switching to this product.
They argue that the process to secure an authorisation to market e-cigarettes as medical devices is long and expensive which will adversely affect the availability of the product.
Producers of electronic cigarettes fear that the revised directive could make it uneconomical for many, who would be forced to shut down, reducing the variety and choice presently available to vapers.
E-cigarette manufacturer Totally Wicked’s chief executive, Fraser Cropper opines that the change shuts the doors for small but innovative e-cigarette producers. According to him, on the one hand, regulation of the e-cigarettes as medicines prohibits the product by default and a special permission is required to market it. On the other hand, tobacco cigarettes, with known deadly consequences are left out, making them the only easily available source of nicotine.
Conservative MEP, Martin Callanan, has sought an amendment which, if accepted, would make e-cigarettes subject to regulation as is applicable other nicotine products.
He claims that it was ironic that tobacco should be regulated less than aids designed to stop tobacco use. While pointing out that thousands of smokers were able to quit by turning to e-cigarettes, he said that over-regulation by the EU would be hypocritical and would do more harm than good.
Callanan proposes to work closely with vapers to convince other MEP’s to support the views of e-cigarette users and producers.
Countries of the EU apply widely differing standards to electronic cigarettes, with countries such as Britain allowing the sale of the product without restrictions while others like Denmark imposing a ban on the device.