Members of the European Parliament meeting for the first October plenary session this week in Strasbourg will vote on Tuesday (from midday) on a controversial dossier on the manufacture and presentation of tobacco products
One of the most contentious parts of the proposal includes regulating electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as medicinal products which has prompted South West MEP Graham Watson
, along with his Liberal Democrat colleagues, to warn that that new measures to restrict the use of e-cigarettes could make it more difficult to give up smoking. They have tabled an amendment
to prevent new restrictive regulation.
Commenting ahead of the vote this week, Sir Graham said
: “It would be absolutely wrong for the EU to restrict new technologies that could help people stop smoking and reduce the damage that tobacco causes. This is about freedom of choice as much as saving lives. If a product can actually save lives, is well regulated and works, then why should we restrict its use?
"Regulating e-cigarettes as medical products and making them more difficult to obtain than normal cigarettes makes no sense whatsoever. We need to be making it easier for people to switch from cigarettes to less damaging alternatives, not putting obstacles in the way of people who want to quit."
E-cigarettes are used by an estimated 1.3 million people across the UK and are widely recognised as being infinitely less harmful than tobacco. Cancer Research UK
says that up to 60,000 lives could be saved over the decade through consumers switching to electronic cigarettes.
UPDATE: 08/10/2013 19:50
MEPs voted today on this dossier and rejected plans for e-cigarettes to be treated as medicines, which would have increased their cost and reduced their availability in many countries.
Welcoming the vote result, Sir Graham said in a press release: "E-cigs can be a game changer in the fight against smoking. Hundreds of former smokers have written to tell me that they have helped them give up cigarettes when nothing else worked. They are successful because they are not medicines but products that smokers can use as an alternative to cigarettes.
"Every year 700,000 people in Europe die of smoking-related diseases. We should do nothing that makes e-cigs harder to obtain than tobacco cigarettes.
The European Parliament decision on e-cigs was opposed by Labour MEPs but supported by Liberal Democrat and Conservative members.
The vote now puts the European Parliament in conflict with government ministers from Britain and a majority of other EU countries. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to all British MEPs last week urging them to back medicinal regulation for e-cigarettes. Attempts must now be made to find a compromise between the European Parliament's position and that of the national government ministers in the Council.
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