In a landmark decision, members of the European Parliament have rejected a plan to unilaterally regulate e-cigarettes as medicinal products. The news comes amid heightened debate over the safety of e-cigarettes. In France, just as elsewhere, e-cigarette use is on the rise and boutique stores are emerging on major cities. Due to the emerging trend, French lawmakers are considering making vaping (the term for "smoking" one of the smokeless e-cigarettes) indoors illegal, a move being mirrored in other countries. Rejecting the regulation doesn't affect that decision, but had the proposal been made law, e-cigarette sales would be restricted and the devices have been subject to different tax grades.
The e-cigarette vote was one part of a larger round of decisions on tobacco regulation. While e-cigarettes emerged unscathed, tobacco products will be subject to tighter control. In a plan to make cigarettes less appealing to children and adults alike, menthol and other flavored cigarettes will be banned within five years. A proposal to outlaw boxes of 10 cigarettes, an especially popular product in the UK, failed, with the European Parliament opting to "recommend" boxes of 20 cigarettes or more. Many member states already require larger cigarette counts in boxes, with the UK and Italy being outliers.
Tobacco regulations and health warnings will be dramatically increased
The final major decision of the day came in regards to printed health warnings. Under new laws, cigarette manufacturers will have to cover 65 percent of each box with EU-approved warnings, an increase from before. It was hoped that MEPs would vote to cover 75 percent of each both with warnings, with 65 percent being the minimum accepted.
Todays vote is an important step along the road to adopting the new laws. When it comes into effect, the regulatory package represents only a minimum standard. Individual nations are free to impose tighter regulations, but must at least adhere to the minimum figures. For example, the UK has already stated it plans to license e-cigarettes as medicinal from 2016 onwards, and today's decision doesn't necessarily change anything for British authorities. Similarly, Belgium already forces manufacturers to cover 75 percent of each cigarette box with health warnings.