European Commission proposals could leave tobacco smokers within the EU with easy access to tobacco cigarettes but little access to less risky alternatives to these products.
According to a story in the European Voice, the commission, whose proposal to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines was turned down by MEPs in October, is now putting forward other measures seen by some as being medicines regulation by the back door.
If the commission has its way, smokers might be left with no access to electronic cigarettes and—with the exception of tobacco users in Sweden—no access to snus.
The question of how to regulate e-cigarettes is said to be the biggest remaining obstacle to an agreement between MEPs and the member states on revising the European Union’s Tobacco Products Directive.
As negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers prepare to meet in Brussels to finalise the text of a revision to the directive, lobbying about e-cigarettes is intensifying.
At issue are differences about whether e-cigarettes should be regulated lightly because they might prove useful to wean smokers off more harmful cigarettes, or whether e-cigarettes should be heavily regulated because they pose a health risk.
The European Voice says that, ahead of the negotiations, the commission has circulated a text that proposes introducing a series of restrictions on e-cigarettes, including banning those that produce levels of nicotine above 20 mg per ml of vapor or 10 mg/unit, and those with refillable cartridges or tanks. They would also ban e-cigarettes designed to taste like tobacco.
Thirteen health experts from Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Poland and the U.K. have written a letter warning that the latest commission proposals could bring to an end the positive effect that safer electronic cigarettes have had in weaning smokers from tobacco cigarettes, which, they said, caused 700,000 premature deaths a year in the EU.