The European Parliament has strongly backed moves to make smoking less attractive to young people but has rejected the health commissioner’s call to have electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) classified as medicines. The MEPs vote on Tuesday, 8th October came after months of lobbying by major tobacco manufacturers to try to water down and delay the European Union’s attempts to strengthen the existing legislation on tobacco products.
MEPs agreed that in future clear health warnings should cover at least 65% of both sides of a pack of cigarettes and packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes would be banned. Flavourings such as vanilla, strawberry and menthol, designed to mask the taste of tobacco and make products attractive to young people would also be banned but only after the legislation had come into force.
However, the commissioner failed in his attempt to have e-cigarettes classified as medicines with all the regulation that this designation would impose. British Liberal Democrat and Conservative MEPs successfully opposed the move which they said, would have increased the cost of e-cigarettes and reduced their availability.
An interesting development which demonstrates the power of the tobacco industry in lobbying in its own interests. The industry is clearly an anti-health force to be reckoned with. But, looking at the bigger picture, smoking e-cigarettes is much safer than smoking normal ones and for some nicotine addicts is a more acceptable way of obtaining nicotine gratification than through patches or chewing gum. So, on balance, I think the European parliament made the right decision.