MEPs vote for tougher EU regulations on e-cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes may be child-proofed and carry health warnings

MEPs have voted in favour of  introducing tougher new laws governing the sale and use of tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes in Europe. Photograph: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg

MEPs have voted in favour of introducing tougher new laws governing the sale and use of tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes in Europe. Photograph: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg

 

Controversial new tobacco rules that include regulating electronic cigarettes were passed by the European Parliament today.

The draft legislation, which was endorsed by the majority of MEPs, would make it compulsory for all cigarette packages to carry picture warnings covering 65 per cent of the packet.

E-cigarettes, which had been strongly debated in the legislation, would be regulated in the near future.

Member states can decide whether e-cigarettes would be regarded as medicines or as tobacco products.

If a country decides to classify e-cigarettes as tobacco products, they would need to be childproofed, carry health warnings and subject to the same advertising restrictions as tobacco products.

Minister for Health James O’Reilly is already a considering a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18s in Ireland.

As part of the new EU draft law, there is no ban on flavours in e-cigarettes but “characterising” flavours in tobacco cigarettes, including menthol, will be prohibited.

The ban on menthol will not happen until 2020.

Testing requirements for for the most commonly used and most problematic tobacco additives will be strengthened, while essential additives such as sugar would be allowed.

MEPs voted 514 in favour, 66 against and 58 abstentions.

British MEP Linda McAvan, who led the team to negotiate the package, said the new measure were a “big step” forward in tobacco control.

“This is the culmination of years of work against the background of intense lobbying from the tobacco industry and its front groups,” she said.

The Labour Party MEP said the majority of smokers started before their 18th birthday.

“It will help to prevent the next generation of smokers from being recruited,” Ms McAvan said.

The next step is for the European Council to approve the text on March 14th.

States would have two years after the directive is updated to implement the new law.