Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in Strasbourg, France declined to impose stringent regulations on the electronic cigarette industry this week. Although the law isn’t final, as it still has to be reviewed by other branches of the European Union’s government. This is positive news for electronic cigarette business owners and advocates worldwide. While e-cigarettes will not be categorized as medicinal products, sold only in pharmacy’s, under this new regulation, e-cigarette companies in Europe will face stricter advertising regulations, which may prevent millions of people from learning about e-cigs as a reliable, smoke-free alternative.
Various groups spent millions of dollars trying to persuade the MEP to regulate e-cigarettes as nicotine replacement therapies (i.e. patches and gum), but those efforts were rejected. According to The Independent, a popular UK media outlet, the lack of tobacco in e-cigs is one of the main reasons the proposal did not move forward: “Cancer Research has proven that the lack of tobacco in e-cigarettes means they are ‘almost certainly’ a much safer way of getting a nicotine hit than smoking cigarettes.”
The MEP ruling resulted in a successful outcome for the e-cigarette industry because European citizens contacted their elected officials and let their voices be heard. Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat MEP, told The Verge, another prominent UK media outlet, “E-cigs can be a game changer. Hundreds of former smokers have written to tell me that they have helped them give up cigarettes when nothing else worked. They are successful because they are not medicines but products that smokers enjoy using as an alternative to cigarettes.” Using this strategy in the U.S., SFATA is working to rally e-cigarette advocates to inform and educate elected officials.
Despite this apparent win, there are still many battles to fight in Europe and in the U.S. Individual nations in Central and Eastern Europe are free to impose tighter e-cig regulations, but must meet minimum standards set by the EU. Although the U.S. government is not looking to classify and regulate e-cigs as medicinal products, there is quite a lot of pressure to regulate them as if they were traditional cigarettes, which would be detrimental to the industry and consumers alike.
SFATA hopes U.S. regulators will look at Europe’s regulatory decision on e-cigarettes and use the same strategy for the U.S. It is inappropriate to categorize e-cigarettes as medicine or traditional cigarettes because this innovative technology is neither. E-cigarettes are a separate entity and deserve separate and sensible regulation. As a tobacco-free adult alternative, e-cigarettes are a useful option to people worldwide.
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