Liberal Democrat MEP and Health Spokeswoman in the European Parliament Rebecca Taylor welcomed the fact that mandatory medicinal regulation of electronic cigarettes was rejected in negotiations on the EU Tobacco Products Directive, but expressed her disappointment over some aspects of the outcome.
In negotiations last night (Monday), proposals from the European Commission that all electronic cigarettes should be controlled by pharmaceutical legislation were rejected by MEPs. Governments will now have to propose special legal justifications if they wish electronic cigarettes to be treated differently from conventional tobacco cigarettes.
In negotiations with representatives of EU governments, MEPs agreed on a compromise that the maximum nicotine content of e-cigs available for general sale should be 20mg/ml, a major increase on the 4mg/ml originally proposed by the Commission and above the average routinely used. The nicotine level agreed is regarded as closely comparable to that derived from smoking conventional cigarettes.
It was agreed that the flavourings that can be used in e-cigs will be specified by national governments rather than specified by EU legislation. Refillable units, which are widely used at present, will continue to be available. They will however be subject to a safeguard clause meaning that Member States can introduce stringent national measures including a prohibition against concerned products – if justified by evidence of a serious risk to public health. If refillable e-cigarettes have been prohibited in at least three Member States, the Commission would be able to extend the ban to all Member States through a delegated act but that could be blocked by a majority in the European Parliament. The Commission was also asked to report on health and safety risks of refillables within two years’ time.
Rebecca Taylor commented:
“Significant ground had been won in the rejection of Europe wide medicines licensing. But the decision to potentially ban refillable cartridges and devices in future would be a backward step.”
“Second and third generation e-cigarette devices, which are used by around 80% of long term e-cigarette consumers, allow users to mix and match their desired flavours and nicotine strengths. They are a key part of what attracts someone to quit smoking tobacco and switch to e-cigarettes and to stick to vaping rather than go back to smoking.”
“Unless manufacturers are able to adapt their products to accommodate disposable cartridges, I worry that a substantial number of e-cigarette users may be pushed back to tobacco, which is the exact opposite of what the tobacco directive is supposed to achieve.”
“The fight is now on to show that it would not be justifiable to ban refillable cartridges on health and safety grounds.”
Chris Davies MEP added:
“We have seen a massive turnaround in the approach towards e-cigs and that is very much to be welcomed. These things can save lives because smokers find them pleasurable to use.”
“But we are determined to fight to the end on behalf of e-cig users. Their health benefits are enormous compared to smoking tobacco and they can be a game-changer in the fight against smoking-related disease. They should never have been included within legislation intended to regulate tobacco products.”
“So long as conventional cigarettes are available everywhere the restrictions on e-cigs should be minimal. Too many EU governments simply don’t get it. The controls they favour will lead to people dying unnecessarily who might otherwise have switched from smoking cigarettes to using a product not now associated with any deaths at all.”