UK Tories press MEPs 'not to over-regulate' electronic cigarettes

ECR group leader Martin Callanan has warned MEPs that proposed plans to classify e-cigarettes as medicinal products will simply drive people "straight back on to real cigarettes".

By Brian Johnson

Brian Johnson is Managing Editor of The Parliament Magazine

08 Oct 2013

Ahead of today's lunchtime plenary vote on the EU tobacco products directive, Callanan said that he had been inundated by personal appeals from so-called 'vapers' who say e-cigarettes have enabled them to move off of cigarettes and on to products that produce no tar, carbon monoxide or smoke.

"Thousands of e-cigarette users have pleaded with the European parliament not to take these products off the shelves. The products have helped people to move away from traditional tobacco, so they should at least be treated in the same manner as tobacco products," said Callanan.

Plans put forward by MEPs within the tobacco product directive proposals would see electronic cigarettes classified as medicinal products, which according to the ECR leader would mean they would have to go through an exceptionally rigorous and costly authorisation procedure – perhaps even more vigorous than that used for harmful traditional tobacco products. 

Callanan has tabled an amendment to today's vote that would only require e-cigarettes to go through the same authorisation process as traditional tobacco products.

"Unless MEPs vote for our amendment today, I fear that many of these people will go straight back on to real cigarettes" -  Martin Callanan

"There has been a great deal of lobbying effort on both sides surrounding this directive. However, on the e-cigarettes issue I have received countless emails, letters and phone calls from people who were not organised by a lobby group but were genuinely afraid that their electronic cigarettes will be taken off the shelves," he added.

"Unless MEPs vote for our amendment today, I fear that many of these people will go straight back on to real cigarettes. MEPs need to see sense."

Callanan's comments were backed by fellow Tory MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, who during this morning's debate on the tobacco products directive said, "As an ex-smoker I know all too well that it is not easy to give up the habit. While people continue to smoke we must support those who want to quit."

Yannakoudakis attacked Linda McAvan, parliament's rapporteur on the directive, saying that the British socialist deputy's plans to regulate electronic cigarettes as medical devices would make it harder for people to give up smoking.

"By over-regulating products such as e-cigarettes we would make it more difficult, not easier, for people to quit."

MEPs are set to vote on the controversial directive from midday today.

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