After hard-fought negotiations, the European Union has struck a deal on the new tobacco directive, choosing to regulate electronic cigarettes as consumer products, but leaving the door wide open for individual member countries to regulate them as medicines if they so desire.
Back in October, e-cigarettes scored a major legislative win, after the EU Parliament decided to vote against proposesd medical regulations, but it was just the beginning of a war to keep these innovative products freely available to consumers, so they could truly provide an alternative to smoking. Their decision didn’t stop the EU Commission from still pushing for a ban on electronic cigarettes, as a leaked internal document clearly showed, a few weeks ago. On December 17th, the 28 Governments of the European Union and the EU Parliament finally reached an agreement for the new tobacco directive, one that clearly favors big tobacco companies and threatens the future of the e-cigarette industry as we know it.
According to the new deal, electronic cigarettes with a nicotine content below 20mg/ml will be regulated as consumer products, rather than medicines. That sounds like good news, considering the 28 Governments had originally proposed a 3mg/ml threshold, but member countries will be free to individually regulate e-cigarettes as medical products if they so desire. To make matters worse, the EU could enforce a general ban on refillable e-cigarettes if at least three member countries choose to prohibit them on health grounds.
“This will lead to another ridiculous ban from the EU on the majority of e-cigarettes which are better for the health of smokers and for British manufacturers of e-cigarettes,” said Nigel Farage, an MEP and leader of a UK political party. “The EU should not be putting restrictions on a safer alternative to smoking.”
Another Member of the European Parliament, Rebecca Taylor, thinks the very possible ban on refillable e-cigarettes could push vapers back to tobacco. “This 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,” she said. Martin Callanan, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, agrees: “This is a perverse decision that risks sending more people back to real, more harmful, cigarettes. Refillable e-cigarettes would almost certainly be banned, and only the weakest products will be generally available. As many smokers begin on stronger e-cigs and gradually reduce their dosage, making stronger e-cigs harder to come across will encourage smokers to stay on tobacco.”
You might be tempted to think the new tobacco directive scheduled to come into effect in 2016 threatens the entire e-cigarette industry, but it’s really great news for the tobacco companies, who only sell weaker disposable models. Lorillard already controls over half the US e-cigarette market with its Blu brand and is set to expand in Europe, after acquiring UK-based SKYCIG. R.J. Reynolds has been testing its own VUSE electronic cigarette in the state of Colorado and is preparing to launch it on a national level, while Altria is preparing to do the same with its NuMark e-cig.
The recent EU decision has already caused outrage within the vaping community. There is currently an online petition you can sign to convince European Union officials to reconsider their proposals.