European Parliament Approves Regulations for Electronic Cigarettes

Article excerpt

New rules call for the advertising of electronic cigarettes to be banned by mid-2016 and mandates health warnings and childproof packaging.

The European Parliament has approved rules for the region's fast- growing market for electronic cigarettes, regulations that could help set a benchmark for standards around the world.

Beginning in mid-2016, advertising for e-cigarettes would be banned in the 28 nations of the European Union, as it already is for ordinary tobacco products. E-cigarettes would also be required to carry graphic health warnings and must be childproof. The amount of nicotine would be limited to 20 milligrams per milliliter, similar to the limit for ordinary cigarettes.

Governments across the globe are grappling with how to regulate e- cigarettes, which turn nicotine-infused propylene glycol into an inhalable vapor. As sales of e-cigarettes have ballooned, the debate over the public health implications has intensified. The Food and Drug Administration in the United States is expected to issue regulations for the devices soon; some American cities have already acted independently to ban e-cigarettes in public places.

In Europe, the tobacco legislation just needs the final approval of member states, something that appears all but certain. It is expected by April.

The regulation of e-cigarettes in Europe is part of a broader overhaul of the region's tobacco rules, which have been in place since 2001.

The rules adopted on Wednesday go further than United States laws. Along with the e-cigarette changes, they will require that the top 65 percent of all cigarette packs be covered with health warnings and pictures of things like diseased lungs. They would ban all tobacco products specifically aimed at children, like chocolate cigarettes, as well as cigarettes that come in packages designed to look like lipstick or perfume containers. Menthol cigarettes would also be prohibited, after a four-year delay.

But the new rules stop short of an earlier proposal to regulate e- cigarettes as medicines. Such oversight would have moved them out of the specialty shops that have sprouted across Europe and into drugstores, where they would have been subject to the same regulatory regime as pharmaceuticals.

"This is a victory," said Linda McAvan, the British Labour Party member of the European Parliament who guided the legislation through the chamber in the face of determined opposition from the tobacco industry.

"The original proposal was stricter, and I would have voted for that, but the new law is anyway a huge step forward in tobacco control," she added.

The fight will probably continue, as Big Tobacco and e-cigarette start-ups look to protect their business. For example, the tobacco companies' case has previously been taken up by countries like Ukraine, Cuba and Indonesia in a challenge to Australia's rules at the World Trade Organization, arguing that the regulations constitute "technical barriers" to trade and violate the companies' intellectual property rights. …