Europe proposes tighter tobacco laws, e-cigarettes may face new restrictions

The health ministers of the European Union agreed to ban menthol and other flavored cigarettes and imposed tighter rules on health warnings on cigarette packs. E-cigarettes might also be subjected to certain restrictions.

The EU health ministers met in Luxembourg, Friday, and endorsed legislations to require tobacco companies to print packages that have text and images warning of the health hazards of smoking. The warning labels should cover 65 percent of the packaging's front and back.

"A framework that will enable good quality products to be widely available. It's not about banning products that some people find useful, it's about making sure that smokers have an effective alternative that they can rely on to meet their needs," explained Jeremy Mean of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority in an interview with the Guardian.

In the UK, e-cigarette companies will need medical license while France is considering to ban the device that turns nicotine into vapor.

The proposed e-cigarette regulations might be enforced starting 2017. Such products will be subjected to health testing and will be sold in pharmacies in some of the member countries of the EU.

"They do contain nicotine, a highly addictive product that causes damage in its own right. It may be less toxic, but less toxic doesn't mean more-safe to me," emphasized James Reilly, health minister of Ireland, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

While the stand of the health ministers are clear, the members of the European Parliament are said to have an inclination for lighter regulations, perhaps due to the lobbying of e-cigarette users, vendors, and producers.

Some of the health ministers expressed that they may also lean towards the position adopted by the lawmakers. During the discussions, the health ministers proposed considering e-cigarettes using two milligrams of nicotine for every milliliter, as medicines. If that pushes through, the restrictions will cover 90 percent of the e-liquid brands in the market today.

In the United States, there are no existing federal regulations for e-cigarettes but there are states and cities that have passed laws and set their own rules. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hinted recently that it wants to tag e-cigarettes as tobacco products, but no particular details were provided.

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