“The response to our campaign highlights how strongly people feel about these illiberal and potentially irresponsible measures,” Simon Clark, director of Forest, said.

“There is no evidence the directive will reduce smoking rates among children and every chance it will encourage illicit trade. Meanwhile law abiding adults will be prohibited from buying products they have purchased and enjoyed for many years.”

Proposals by the public health committee being put to the European parliament today attempted to classify electronic cigarettes as medicinal products, which would have imposed a much more rigorous and costly authorisation procedure on the items.

The move, which was defeated, would have seen the product removed from the shelves at least temporarily in the UK, as authorities have made it clear no existing product would satisfy the proposed standards.

That prospect sent a chill up the spine of many users, who rely on the vapour product to stay off real cigarettes

“Thousands of e cigarette users have pleaded with the European parliament not to take these products off the shelves,” said Conservative MEP Martin Callanan, who tabled an amendment to the vote that would only require e cigarettes to go through the same authorisation process as traditional tobacco products.

“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.

“This is a victory for common sense.”

European union gets tougher on cigarettes

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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM The European Parliament earlier this week backed new regulations for cigarettes, requiring them to include larger warning labels while banning flavors such as menthol, the Wall Street Journal reports. It also said electronic cigarettes should be subject to the same rules as tobacco cigarettes.

The vote prompted relief among e cigarette makers, as EU health ministers earlier this year had proposed treating e cigarettes as medicinal products, which would have required extensive medical testing while limiting their sale to pharmacies in some EU countries.

The EU s treatment of e cigarettes will be followed closely in the U.S., as the Food and Drug Administration is expected to make proposals on how to deal with them as early as this month.

“Whatever law comes, we have to make sure that they’re not marketed as gateway products for young people,” said Linda McAvan, a lawmaker for the U.K. Labour Party who will be leading the talks with EU health ministers. McAvan said she hoped to reach a deal on the law before the end of the year, with new restrictions to take effect in 2016.

Lawmakers also voted to increase the size of warning labels to 65% of the front and back of cigarette packages, up from 30% to 40% currently. The warnings must include photos of tobacco related illnesses and be placed at the top of packages.

Parliament also supported a ban on the sale of lipstick shaped packages and cigarettes with special flavorings, which they deemed particularly attractive to young women and girls. A menthol ban would be phased in only years after the main law takes effect.

Tobacco companies had lobbied against the new rules and blasted Parliament s rulings.

Lawmakers “have failed to provide a workable framework for reduced harm products and have also continued to include oversize graphic health warnings and pack standardization even though the risks of smoking are already well known,” said Drago Azinovic, EU region president for Philip Morris.

While e cigarettes were treated lighter than expected by Parliament, the new rules would impact their manufacture, sale and distribution as follows producers would no longer be able to advertise their products on television and would need to ensure that they aren t sold to minors and producers wouldn t be able to market them under well known cigarette brand names, which could make it more difficult for traditional tobacco companies to expand their reach in the marketplace.