After months of heated debate and endless efforts from e cig companies and vapers, the European Parliament has finally made an official decision on upcoming regulations for electronic cigarettes. While the Parliament voted not to treat e cigs are medications, they are imposing strict new rules for e cig companies starting in 2016.

Based on the new rules, electronic cigarettes cannot be advertised in the 28 EU nations starting in 2016. In addition, all e cigs will have graphic health warnings on the labels and be childproof. Nicotine content will also be restricted with a maximum nicotine concentration of 20 milligrams per milliliter.

The ruling could be a major precedent as the FDA considers how to handle electronic cigarettes. New regulations are expected in the United States this year. For now, individual cities are deciding how to treat e cigs and some have already voted to ban vaping in places where tobacco cigarettes are already prohibited.

Over the past 13 years, the European Union has cracked down on the tobacco industry and electronic cigarettes are now falling under the same harsh regulation. The official ruling will be complete after all member states give approval, which should be finished in April.

Electronic cigarette rules represent only a small portion of the latest tobacco control changes. The Parliament also voted that tobacco companies must change their packaging so the top 65 percent of each cigarette pack is covered in graphic health warnings and photos depicting health consequences of tobacco use, such as diseased lungs. Unique cigarette packaging is also banned, including cigarette packs that look like lipstick or perfume. Products that would appeal to children are also being restricted, including chocolate flavored cigarettes. The EU plans to ban menthol cigarettes, but that rule is currently on a four year delay.

While many vapers and electronic cigarette companies are undoubtedly frustrated with the new regulations, it could have been worse. In previous months, the EU considered treating e cigarettes as medications and that would have had major economic consequences, forcing many small ecig brands to close and local European vape stores to go out of business.

All things considered, the majority of the Parliament is thrilled with the ruling. Parliament member Linda McAvan called the ruling a victory. The original proposal was stricter, and I would have voted for that, but the new law is anyway a huge step forward in tobacco control, she said.

Opposition is still expected when the new regulations take place. Tobacco and electronic cigarette companies from outside countries could potentially take the matter to court because the regulations could infringe on intellectual property rights and trade treaties.

Philip Morris International released a statement shortly after the ruling was announced, saying the decision represents a worrying departure from the EU s basic standards of proportionate, evidence based policy making, which will further erode intellectual property rights and undermine the EU charter where these rights are protected.

Despite the majority ruling to regulate e cigarettes, some political leaders were not in favor of the decision. British politician Martin Callanan is among those that are concerned about the far reaching consequences of the new regulations. He called the ruling a massive loss for public health in Europe.”

While there is still some time before the regulations officially begin, e cigarette companies will have to act quickly to adapt to the changing rules. Only time will tell what the real consequences will be for the ecig industry.

How do you think the new regulations will impact European e cig companies and vapers?

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