• April 9, 2020

EU committee vote on e-cigarettes out of line with public health aims

The European Parliament’s environment, public health and food safety committee has voted to back the European Commission’s proposal to classify electronic cigarettes as medicinal products.

For many people, this proposal is the most health-negative of the raft of proposed revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive put forward by the commission at the end of last year.

In its response to the proposed revisions, Parliament’s legal affairs committee said, in part, that Article 18 prohibited nicotine-containing products such as electronic cigarettes containing a certain nicotine level if they were not authorized pursuant to the Medicinal Products Directive. “It is, however, quite unclear if these products (which are much less harmful than tobacco products) even fall under the scope of the Medicinal Products Directive,” the committee said. “For products which do not fall under the Directive, this would effectively constitute a ban. Banning products which are less harmful than tobacco products and which can be a means of smoking cessation is certainly not in line with the public health aims of the proposal.”

Before Wednesday’s vote by the environment committee, a group of vapers wrote an open letter to the chairman of the environment committee, Matthias Groote, calling for a rethink on the proposal for regulating electronic cigarettes.

The group said that for 5 million to 7 million people within the EU, electronic cigarettes had provided and continued to provide a viable alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes.

And it asked Groote and his committee to imagine how many lives could be saved if electronic cigarettes were allowed to continue to flourish.

However, the group expressed concern that what it called this positive story was about to come to an abrupt halt because of the commission’s proposal. “By regulating e-cigarettes as a medicinal product, and by banning flavours, the Commission and its supporters in Parliament and Council are effectively banning e-cigarettes, as the Parliament’s own Legal Affairs Committee has made clear,” it said.

The group made the point that whereas electronic cigarettes were safe, tobacco cigarettes killed 700,000 people in the EU each year and neither the commission nor Parliament were proposing to ban them.

In fact, the commission and the environment committee are proposing that some cigarettes should be banned: slim cigarettes and those with characterizing flavors, including menthol.

It also voted in favor of graphic warnings covering 75 percent of the fronts and backs of cigarette packs, though it did not accept a proposed amendment seeking the imposition of standardized tobacco packs.

The proposals still have to go before a plenary session of Parliament.