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Eu seeks ‘ban on all currently available e-cigarettes’ – telegraph

Marlboro cigarettes

All electronic cigarettes that are currently on sale in Britain would be banned and removed from the shop shelves under new European Union proposals.

A confidential negotiating document drafted by the European Commission seeks to overturn a vote by MEPs that rejected outlawing them in their present form. Brussels officials fear that there is a “risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes”, according to the paper, and want to include the smoke free alternative under a new EU “tobacco products directive” despite the fact that they contain no tobacco.

The bid to ban e cigarettes drew anger from suppliers in Britain, where some 1.3 million of the current 10 million smokers have switched to the electronic devices.

Fraser Cropper, the chief executive officer of Totally Wicked, an e cigarette supplier based in Lancashire, accused EU officials of wanting to introduce a ban by the back door in defiance of the European Parliament.

“Behind closed doors in Brussels, unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats are drafting proposals that will deny millions of existing and former smokers access to a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes,” he said.

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The proposal came as a town in northern France became the first to impose an electronic cigarette ban in public buildings.

Francois Digard, mayor of Saint Lo in La Manche region of Normandy passed a decree this month outlawing electronic cigarettes, after receiving several complaints from residents.

France, which has an estimated 1.5 million e cigarette users, is currently mulling a ban but the mayor apparently decided to jump the gun after several non smokers said they were unhappy about the devices being smoked in public libraries.

“The e cigarette is not neutral in the immediate environment. With it emitting odour and a bit of smoke it can really bother some people,” Mr Digard told local radio station France Bleu Cotentin.

In Britain, the pub chain JD Wetherspoon and some train operators have already banned the devices.

As cigarette smoking has been increasingly stigmatised and banned in public places, the sale of electronic cigarettes has risen dramatically.

E cigarettes consist of a battery, a cartridge containing nicotine, a solution of propylene glycol or glycerine mixed with water, and an atomiser to turn the solution into a vapour.

The nicotine is delivered without a flame and without tobacco or tar and e cigarette users describe the experience as “vaping” rather than smoking.

They are widely considered a healthier alternative to their tobacco counterparts, though some health officials have begun to question that assumption.

The Dutch public health institute on Wednesday published a policy paper claiming that electronic cigarettes are as harmful as ordinary cigarettes, warning they are addictive and contain poisonous substances.

Because the products are new and do not contain tobacco, they are outside EU law and are more or less unregulated in Britain and across Europe.

But officials in Brussels want that to change, saying the devices “normalise the action of smoking”. “Electronic cigarettes are a tobacco related product and should be regulated within this directive. They simulate smoking behaviour and are increasingly used and marketed to young people and non smokers,” said the commission negotiating paper, seen by the Daily Telegraph.

The commission proposals would ban, by 2017, e cigarettes that produce levels of nicotine above 20 mg per ml, those with refillable cartridges or those designed to taste like tobacco. Suppliers say that all e cigarettes currently available would fall foul of the prohibition.

“Only flavours which are authorized for use in nicotine replacement therapies can be used in electronic cigarettes, unless such a flavour is particularly attractive to young people and non smokers,” said the commission document.

According industry estimates, if current growth rates continue, by 2017, when the EU ban would come into force, there could be nearly five million former people using electronic cigarettes rather than smoking tobacco.

“Forcing e cigarettes off the shelves would be crazy. It would remove a valuable support for people desperate to stop smoking and thus could potentially lead to needless deaths,” said Martin Callanan, a Conservative MEP.

“The commission failed to get their way in their first attempt to put the squeeze on e cigarettes. This attempt is not acceptable either.” The EU legislation will also ban the sale of cigarettes in packets of 10 and outlaw menthol flavoured tobacco as well as requiring graphic health warnings, including colour photographs of tumours, to cover 65 per cent of packaging.

“I never comment on leaked documents,” said a commission spokesman.