EU Parliament Votes Against Medical Regulation For E-Cigs!
Here in the states, we awoke to big news this morning from our neighbors across the pond. Today, Members of European Parliament voted on several revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive. Among them was a vote on whether or not to classify e-cigarettes as medicinal products, restricting sales to pharmacies for products with a nicotine concentration over 4%, or 4 mg/ml.
We are happy to report that MEPs voted 362 to 298 against a proposal that would have labeled e-cigs as medicinal products! This is a HUGE victory not just for European vapers, but the vaping community as a whole. There is speculation that the FDA is considering limiting e-cig products sold in the United States to as low as 1mg/ml or even 0.5. Today's ruling could set precedence for future legislative measures on nicotine content of e-cigarettes in other countries.
Other measures voted on included a ban on cigarette flavors, something the FDA already has in place, with a five year phase-out process for menthol. And, for the time being, slim cigarettes will not be banned, however it will now be illegal for tobacco companies to sell cigs in packs of 10 or fewer. As for advertising, 65 percent of every pack of cigarettes sold in the EU will be covered with a health warning label. These measures are all to deter young people from picking up smoking.
There is, however, a cap on the amount of nicotine electronic cigarettes can contain. The amendment, drafted by the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats, limits the nicotine content of e-cigs to 30mg/ml and prohibits sales to people under the age of 18.
Had electronic cigarettes been classified as medical products the majority of the EU market would have likely been decimated by the new regulations in 2014. The majority of e-cig users vape with nicotine concentrations in the 6-24mg/ml range and those would have been subject to medical approval which would ultimately drive prices and restrict access to them.
An estimated 1.3 million people in the UK alone are current e-cigarette users. While today's vote is considered a victory for public health by many vapers, those in the UK are still faced with an MHRA announcement in June to classify any product containing nicotine as a medical device. Those regulations are slated to be put into effect sometime over the next two years, pending today's Parliament ruling.
But then there's the legal argument. ECITA, the UK's e-cigarette industry group, hired a lawyer back in June to take a look at the EU's tobacco directive. Sir Francis Jacobs QC described the proposal as “an unreasonable measure which is liable to be annulled as being contrary to the principle of proportionality and/or the principle of non-discrimination.”
Some feared the TPD proposals would have hurt the job market and effectively put many companies out of business. Others argued it would have been bad for public health with one describing the vote as “safeguarding the most effective tool yet developed in the battle to defeat smoking-related disease and death.”
Countless other MEPs credited thousands of testimonial letters from the vaping community. Nicotine is the key word here as e-cigarettes are not marketed as NRT, but rather as an alternative to tobacco. Keeping e-cigs on the consumer market has the potential to save millions of lives.