A EURO-MP representing the Standard's region has broadly welcomed a tentative agreement between the European Commission and MEPs on the regulation of electronic cigarettes but says more needs to be done to maintain “the freedom to choose”.
During late night talks, the European Commission backed down on demands for a heavy regulation of electronic cigarettes, commonly known as ‘e-cigs’ or ‘vaping’.
Plans for the product to be controlled by pharmacies, restricting the sale on the open market, have been stopped.
A minimum nicotine content has also been set at 20mg/l, far higher than the 3mg the Commission had originally hoped for. 20mg/l is closely comparable to that of conventional cigarettes.
Plans to potentially restrict the sale of refillable units remain within the proposals despite opposition from MEPs. From 2016, a review of their sale will come into effect which could lead to restrictions.
A decision on flavoured e-cigs will be left to national governments to decide rather than Brussels.
Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West and campaigner for more freedoms within the electronic cigarette market, broadly welcomed the news.
“We have not got everything we wanted, such is the way of compromise. However, major concessions have been made by governments and the Commission which will see e-cigs being widely sold, not just in pharmacies. But unfortunately the work does not stop here. We have three years to persuade governments and the EU to find a way to keep refillable cartridges open to consumers.
“Up to 60,000 lives could be saved in the UK by switching away from conventional to electronic cigarettes. Surely this is motivation enough to allow consumers to freely choose for themselves and to have an open market.
“It would be madness to see heavy regulation imposed on products which can prevent deaths and ease the burden on our healthcare system.
"I have been contacted by hundreds of constituents whose lives have changed because of this invention and I will continue to stand up for their freedom choose.”
Matthew McMinn, CEO, of Lucky 8s Electronic Cigarettes, a Broadway based cigarette firm, said: “It goes without saying we believe that regulation would be better for everyone. If the MHRA were not involved and it looks like the European Parliament agree for now. But I don’t think this is the end of it. The vote was close, it’s a contentious issue and a lot will change over the next couple of years. I hope that whatever regulation is imposed will still give smokers a choice.”