Posted by Vranks on May 15, 2013 Under E Cig News

On May 7th, the European Parliment organized a workshop to present e cigarette regulatory issues to MEPs (Members of the European Parliament). Although renowned professors who have actually conducted research on the effects of electronic cigarettes spoke in favor of them and representatives of e cigarette user groups made some valid points, members of the World Health Organization and the EU Health Commission fought back with unsubstantiated claims, which ultimately left the few MEPs who actually attended more confused than when they walked in.

The public was prohibited from attending the workshop on electronic cigarettes, but luckily the founder of ECF (E Cigarette Forum) was able to gain entrance and reported on the major points discussed. A recording of the proceedings was also posted on YouTube and discussed on Vapor Trails TV. It’s over one and a half hours long, but it’s definitely worth a look if you have the time. It will help you understand why so many vapers in the EU are concerned with the New Tobacco Directive that aims to ban all e liquids with a nicotine concentration of over 4mg/ml. You’ll hear Health Commission members talk about how they’re not really trying to ban electronic cigarettes, but only to regulate them out of concerns for public safety, although most experts agree that in order for e cigarettes to be effective as an alternative to analog cigarettes, the e liquid needs to contain higher levels of nicotine. 4mg just isn’t going to be enough for most users, and they’ll probably end up smoking again. But of course, nobody wants that, at least not officially&#8230

I’m just going to run you through the most important things discussed at the workshop, if you don’t feel like watching the video recording. Roberto Bertolini, a representative of the World Health Organisation to the EU, played the old “There are no studies that can prove that there won’t be long term consequences” card, and talked about e cigarettes as a dangerous gateway to tobacco cigarettes for minors, completely ignoring arguments made from other attendants, including surveys according to which nearly 100% of those who tried e cigarettes were already smoking, or the fact that their price is too prohibitive for children. He then talked about the 4mg threshold as a way to level the playing field for nicotine products. That small quantity was decided upon according to existing nicotine replacement products, like gums, patches and inhalers that had already been approved as pharmaceuticals, even though, and this is important, they fail in over 90% percent of cases. In summary, Bertolini and other EU Health Commission members presented all the usual negative aspects regarding e cigarettes (dangerous propylene glycol, nicotine poisoning, presence of carcinogens in e liquid, etc.) and argued that they should be regulated as pharma products, which for anyone who uses them for the nicotine and not for the flavor translates as a ban.

Luckily, there were more balanced presentations of the electronic cigarette at the workshop, like those of Dr Jean Francois Etter, of the University of Geneva’s medicine faculty, who let everyone know that “the science behind electronic cigarettes was not fairly represented” at the workshop and that Bertolini and the Health Commission were not only speculating on the so called dangers of vaping, but also using false information to get their points across. He and Dr. Ricardo Polosa were the only people in the room who had studied e cigarettes, and although they both agreed product safety and quality regulations were in order to insure users’ safety, and that research on the long term effects of inhaling propylene glycol and food flavorings, which are known to be safe when ingested, are necessary, they spoke in favor of e cigarettes. Another interesting information from Dr. Etter was that the only company that has an e cigarette product approved by the MHRA for clinical trials (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) is CM Creative, owned by British American Tobacco. If the new EU Tobacco Directive passes in its current form, the industry will basically be handed over to tobacco companies. Of course, nobody wants that, officially&#8230

Ricardo Polosa, a professor of medicine at the University of Catania, mentioned at least five large scientific papers that prove e cigarettes are clearly not a getaway to tobacco smoking, and said he “felt sorry” for listening to W.H.O. representative Bertolini citing an unknown Hungarian study that claimed the opposite. He also declared himself confused by the European Union Commission’s intention to regulate electronic cigarette either as a pharmaceutical product or a tobacco product, saying that they should really look at the claims made by the companies selling it. If the claim was smoking cessation or reduction (although it’s currently not) the regulation should go towards medicinal product, although considering nicotine is not a new molecule, “soft regulation should apply”.

Judging by the low number of Members of parliament present during the workshop (no more than half a dozen at a time), according to the ECF member present, it looks like this was just a staged event to put e cigarettes in a poor light. A successful attempt, if you exclude the points made by the two esteemed researchers mentioned above. Unfortunately, as Chrish Price, of the Electronic Cigarette Consumer Association UK, notes, the e cigarette industry is partly to blame. “A good part of the blame for this situation rests with the vendors,” Chris writes. “When they refuse to publish full current analyses of their finished retail products, we cannot expect anything other than continual assaults on the safety of e cigarettes.” Many think that the trade have created this problem and now we will all suffer as a result. Since many vendors are making millions from e cigarette sales, reasons why they cannot publish analyses of their products are rather hard to come up with the only one that springs to mind is that the results do not make good reading.”

Europa – press releases – press release – excise duties/ minimum retail prices of
cigarettes: infringement proceedings against ireland

The European Commission has decided to send Ireland a reasoned opinion the second stage in the infringement procedure provided for in Article 226 of the EC Treaty because of the fixing of minimum and maximum retail prices for cigarettes by that country. The Commission takes the view, based on well established case law of the Court of Justice of the European Communities, that such prices infringe Community law, distort competition and benefit only manufacturers, by safeguarding their profit margins (see IP/06/483). Unless the legislation in the Member States concerned is brought into compliance within two months of receipt of the reasoned opinion, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

I strongly support Member States in their efforts to implement new health policy. However, this must respect Community law.” said Taxation Commissioner L szl&#243 Kov cs. “Introducing minimum retail prices for cigarettes is against Community law and mainly benefits manufacturers who are able to protect their profit margins .

Health protection objectives may be adequately attained by increasing excise duties

The Commission recognizes that price and tax measures are effective means for reducing tobacco consumption. However, tax and price measures must be in line with other Treaty obligations.

In this respect, the European Court of Justice has already stated that

  • imposing a minimum price is incompatible with the current legal framework (Directive 95/59/EC), since the setting of a minimum price by public authorities inevitably has the effect of limiting the freedom of producers and importers to determine their selling price (see also case C 302/00, Commission/France)
  • minimum prices are not necessary, since the health objectives may be attained by increased taxation of tobacco products. (Case C 216/98, Commission/Greece).

The Commission fully supports Member States in designing measures on tobacco control in order to ensure a high level of public health protection. Among the measures that could be used, the European Commission advocates minimum taxes to tackle cigarettes consumption. This would have the same impact on the prices and would not hamper price competition to the sole benefit of manufacturers.

This is demonstrated by a legislative proposal currently pending before the Belgian Parliament to modify the legislation on minimum retail prices of cigarettes in Belgium (see IP/06/866).


Cigarettes are taxed by means of a specific and an ad valorem excise duty. Specific excise duties are taxes on the quantities of cigarettes. Ad valorem excises are a percentage applied to the price of the cigarettes. Consequently, for cheap cigarettes, the ad valorem excise duty will be small.

In order to increase the price of cheap cigarettes, Member States can either increase the specific excise duties and/or the minimum ad valorem excise duties. Minimum excise duties (calculated on the quantity) are independent of the price of the cigarettes and also ensure that all cigarettes, whether cheap or premium brands, are properly taxed.

The Council, acting on the basis of a report from the Commission, must re examine the rates and structures of excise duties on tobacco products before the end of 2006. In the context of this review, the Commission will examine whether and to what extent the current EU directives can be improved with a view to health protection whilst also respecting the principle of “proportionality”.

Commission case reference number is 2006/2083.

New For the press releases issued on infringement procedures in the taxation or customs area see

For the latest general information on infringement measures against Member States see