Today, the European Parliament delivered a major victory for e-cigarettes by refusing to regulate them as medical devices. According to the New York Times, the lawmakers rejected regulation proposals from e-cig critics and decided to only limit the sale of e-cigarettes to individuals under age 18. Instead of enacting regulations against e-cigs, the parliament focused on creating new restrictions on conventional cigarettes. They voted to ban menthol cigarettes and created new laws that require all cigarette packs to have health warnings in photo and text that cover 65 percent of the package. The menthol ban will not take effect until 2021.
There were a lot of people watching to see how the parliament would approach electronic cigarettes and many were surprised to see that strict regulations were rejected. There have been several European countries that have voted to regulate or ban e-cigarettes in the past few years, but this has often led to court battles with e-cig companies defending their products as beneficial.
As vaping continues to grow in popularity among Europeans, the legislative debates will undoubtedly continue. One of the biggest issues is whether vaping should be allowed in places where smoking is banned. The European Union did not rule on this issue so ultimately it will be up to national jurisdictions to decide whether e-cigs are allowed in public places.
For the many e-cig companies operating in Europe, today’s vote was a huge step in the right direction. “This is a fantastic result for public health and the millions of smokers around Europe who are switching to e-cigarettes,” said Charles Manshaw-Thomas from E-Lites. “Common sense has prevailed.”
While today’s vote means e-cigs won’t be regulated as medical devices, the Tobacco Products Directive still imposes some restrictions on e-cig advertising. The Parliament felt that by restricting advertisements for e-cigs, it would reduce the likelihood that young people would be drawn to e-cigarettes and it would insure that e-cigs continued to appeal to older smokers that hoped to quit.
It is important to note that there was plenty of discussion and some legislators were unhappy with the final verdict. A member of Parliament from Sweden remarked that “these e-cigarettes are not a path to giving up smoking but a gateway to starting smoking.” However, Chris Davis, a British e-cig supporter, quickly rebutted this viewpoint. He said, “You are missing the big picture – these are a potential game-changer in the fight against tobacco.” He went on to explain that the primary goal of e-cigarettes was to reduce the estimated 700,000 deaths in Europe caused by tobacco each year.
Daniel van der Stoep from the Netherlands remarked that religion was far more dangerous than cigarettes. He warned that the lack of tax revenue from cigarette sales would be a bad thing for European countries and he spoke against regulations that would discourage people from enjoying cigarettes, claiming that he was a very experienced and “expert” smoker.
Today’s vote is definitely a positive step for the e-cig industry, but it certainly doesn’t end the debate. Now it will be up to the assembly’s environment and public health committee to decide the final terms of the Tobacco Products Directive. These negotiations will likely begin within a few weeks and finalized before the close of 2013, according to committee member Linda McAvan.
In the hours leading up to the vote, e-cigarette users from all over Europe gathered to support the industry, waving banners and shouting out their support for e-cigs. Brice Lepoutre is head of the French Association of Vapers and he told the press that e-cigs had impacted him personally. “E-cigarettes liberated me from tobacco- they saved my life.” After today’s victory for e-cigarettes, many other smokers will have the chance to echo these sentiments as well.
Do you think the European Parliament made the right decision? How will this impact e-cig revenue in the coming months?