This morning, the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, voted to reject a proposal that electronic cigarettes or “e cigs” be regulated as medical devices. The ruling, which contradicts several federal laws held by member nations of the E.U., is a major decision on what’s a fairly new and poorly understood health issue.

Electronic cigarettes have gained momentum in the past few years they’re seen as quasi medical tools to help quit smoking, but also seen as milder versions of cigarettes. They’re small, sometimes cigarette shaped devices that heat a liquid base containing nicotine and other ingredients (flavorings, mostly) slowly, so that the active chemicals vaporize, rather than burn as they would in a cigarette. The vapor is likely easier on the lungs than smoke from a regular cigarette, they can be smoked in places where cigarettes aren’t allowed (like bars and restaurants), and are about the same price as cigarettes in highly taxed places like New York City. (Disposable e cigs like the popular Blu brand, which costs $9.99, have about the same number of estimated “puffs” as a pack of regular cigarettes.) E cigs are estimated to become a $1.7 billion industry in the U.S. this year, more than twice that of the E.U.

E cigs are barely regulated. The few studies that have been performed indicate that the vapor from certain brands contains carcinogens, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein, but e cigs are so new and have so recently become popular that the laws and regulations are struggling to catch up. At the moment, the U.S. has banned the sale to minors, but courts have rejected the FDA’s repeated attempts to have them classified as drugs (in the same category as nicotine patches). In the E.U., some countries, like Greece, have banned them outright. Some, like Britain, want them treated like medical devices, which would mean they would be more heavily regulated and only sold in pharmacies in some countries. The ruling will trickle down to the member countries within the next few years, as each country has to adjust its individual local and national laws.

Regulation in the U.S. is expected in the next month or so from public health officials, though the FDA hasn’t specified a timeline, and things are complicated by the shutdown.

Read more at the NY Times.

European parliament votes down tight regulation of e-cigarettes

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By Join Together Staff October 9, 2013 Leave a comment Filed in Government, Marketing And Media, Prevention & Tobacco

Members of the European Parliament on Tuesday voted against tight regulations for e cigarettes, according to The New York Times. The vote comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prepares to issue regulations for the devices.

The FDA was expected to issue regulations by the end of October, but they may be delayed by the partial government shutdown, the article notes.

While the European Parliament exempted e cigarettes from heavy regulation, it did impose tight restrictions on advertising and sponsorship. The devices cannot be sold legally to anyone under age 18. The legislation does not address where e cigarettes can be used.

The Parliament also banned conventional cigarettes with menthol flavoring. That measure will take effect in eight years. The legislators voted to require cigarette packs to carry health warnings in pictures and text that covers 65 percent of the packages. Currently the warnings cover 40 percent of cigarette packages.

In the United States, makers of e cigarettes are lobbying the FDA to regulate their products less strictly than traditional cigarettes. The FDA has authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and roll your own tobacco, but not e cigarettes, pipe tobacco or cigars. Under a 2009 law, the FDA can expand its authority over all tobacco products, but it must first issue new regulations. The agency could restrict how e cigarettes are marketed, where they are sold and who can purchase them.

The makers of Marlboro, Newport and Camel cigarettes have entered the e cigarette market, which is projected to approach $2 billion this year. The companies hope to avoid the type of heavy regulation currently governing the traditional cigarette market.

Last month, the attorneys general of 41 states asked the FDA to issue regulations for e cigarettes by the end of October. They said they want to ensure e cigarette companies do not continue to sell or advertise to minors.

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