In a landmark decision, members of the European Parliament have rejected a plan to unilaterally regulate e cigarettes as medicinal products. The news comes amid heightened debate over the safety of e cigarettes. In France, just as elsewhere, e cigarette use is on the rise and boutique stores are emerging on major cities. Due to the emerging trend, French lawmakers are considering making vaping (the term for “smoking” one of the smokeless e cigarettes) indoors illegal, a move being mirrored in other countries. Rejecting the regulation doesn’t affect that decision, but had the proposal been made law, e cigarette sales would be restricted and the devices have been subject to different tax grades.

The e cigarette vote was one part of a larger round of decisions on tobacco regulation. While e cigarettes emerged unscathed, tobacco products will be subject to tighter control. In a plan to make cigarettes less appealing to children and adults alike, menthol and other flavored cigarettes will be banned within five years. A proposal to outlaw boxes of 10 cigarettes, an especially popular product in the UK, failed, with the European Parliament opting to “recommend” boxes of 20 cigarettes or more. Many member states already require larger cigarette counts in boxes, with the UK and Italy being outliers.

Tobacco regulations and health warnings will be dramatically increased

The final major decision of the day came in regards to printed health warnings. Under new laws, cigarette manufacturers will have to cover 65 percent of each box with EU approved warnings, an increase from before. It was hoped that MEPs would vote to cover 75 percent of each both with warnings, with 65 percent being the minimum accepted.

Todays vote is an important step along the road to adopting the new laws. When it comes into effect, the regulatory package represents only a minimum standard. Individual nations are free to impose tighter regulations, but must at least adhere to the minimum figures. For example, the UK has already stated it plans to license e cigarettes as medicinal from 2016 onwards, and today’s decision doesn’t necessarily change anything for British authorities. Similarly, Belgium already forces manufacturers to cover 75 percent of each cigarette box with health warnings.

  • Source BBC Le Monde (FR)
  • Image Credit Dalecav (Flickr &#x2F Creative Commons)
  • Related Items europe regulation smoking european union eu european parliament e cigarette tobacco vaping mep

Eu classifies e cigarettes as a tobacco product

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On Tuesday a draft law that was created to make tobacco products less appealing to the younger generations was passed by Parliament. This now means that all packs must place a health warning label over 65% of the packaging. The approved text reads, “Fruit, menthol flavours and small packs should be banned, and electronic cigarettes should be regulated but as medicinal products only if they claim curative or preventive properties.”

Targeting the Young
In an effort to stop tobacco companies from targeting the younger generations, warning labels on all cigarette packaging has been pushed for a long time. Recent studies in Canada have shown that when these same warning labels were applied to cigarette packs, the rate of youth smoking in Canada was cut in half. The World Health Organization has serious concerns over the rise in young smokers in member states.

Drop in Sales
Although there has been a significant drop in adult smokers in member states, the organization is well aware that these tobacco companies target the children because they are ones who start smoking, not the adults. These tobacco companies employ gimmicks like fruit flavored tobacco to appeal to the significantly younger audience. These practices can be thwarted by forcing the tobacco companies to place the warning labels on two thirds of the pack on front and back.

Warning Labels
The legislation that is currently in place requires that the tobacco products have a warning that covers 30% on the front of the package and up to 40% of the back of the package. The MEPs is had been pushing for a 65% coverage and that the brand name simply appear at the bottom of the packaging.

The E Cigarettes Debate
E cigarettes have long been touted as medical devices in the cure for nicotine addiction. These types of devices should also be regulated but not in the same way as the tobacco products. They should only be held to the same rules as medical devices unless it is shown to have preventative and curative properties. If a particular e cigarette product has not made any medical claims and contains less than 30mg/ml of nicotine, it should carry the same health warnings as other tobacco products and be prevented from being sold to anyone under 18 years of age.

Importers and manufacturers of these type of devices have to be able to supply a list of all active ingredients to the proper authorities. These e cigarettes will be subject to all of the same restrictions that advertisers for tobacco products are held to.

Listing Additives and Flavoring Banned
The MEPs is opposed to tobacco products manufacturers that add flavourings to their tobacco products in the hopes to make them more attractive to consumers. Any additives like sugar that are essential to producing tobacco, would be authorized as well as other substances added to the product in stated concentrations. If an additive is to be approved, a submission for authorization must be submitted by the manufacturer to the European Commission.

Stopping the Illegal Trade
In an effort to curb the amount of illegal tobacco products that reach the consumer market, the MEPs says that member states must guarantee that all single packets and or transport packaging should be identified marking that allows them to be easily traced. This should put a significant cut into the profits of these pirated goods.

In the EU Alone, over 700,000 Deaths per Year
The current directive has been in place for over twelve years and yet smoking is still the leading cause of preventable deaths in the EU with over 700,000 deaths each year. Significant strides have been made to reduce the number of tobacco related deaths in the EU, seeing a drop from active cigarette smokers in the EU15 in 2002 at 40% drop to 28% in the EU27 in 2012. Warning labels should drop that number in the coming years once the warning labels have been fully implemented on to all the tobacco packages.

So What is Next
A mandate was approved by a vote of 620 to 43 allowing a mandate that allows the negotiation of a first reading agreement with the EU ministers. The legislation will have to be approved by Parliament and the Council, at which point EU member states will have up to 18 months to translate that directive into all their national laws which will run from that date which it enters into the force. The deadline for which flavours must be phased out is three years. The menthols are allowed an additional five ears to be phased out. Any tobacco products that are not in compliance with the directive will only be tolerated on the market for up to two years. The e cigarettes will be tolerated on the market for up to three years.