In late December, the European Union’s Parliament approved anti-tobacco legislation, and the legislation included regulations governing electronic cigarettes. Although the European Union has been considering regulating electronic cigarettes for quite some time, the recently-approved legislation is the first rule covering electronic cigarettes at the EU-level. Prior to the approval of this legislation, electronic cigarettes, if at all, were regulated by each individual government within the European Union.
Prior to reaching an agreement in December, there was substantial disagreement over how to regulate electronic cigarettes. The disagreement stemmed largely from the lack of evidence of the long-term health impact of electronic cigarettes coupled with the fast-growing market for the product. In fact, some analysts believe that within 10 years the electronic cigarette market could exceed the market for cigarettes.
Although the legislation was recently adopted, the effective date is not until 2016. Also, the regulations are not as severe for electronic cigarette companies as they could have been. First, the legislation provides that electronic cigarettes will generally be sold as consumer products – not as medical devices. Some member states (countries in the European Union) had pushed for electronic cigarettes to be regulated as medical devices, which are more strictly regulated than consumer products. Second, the legislation allows companies to sell electronic cigarettes with refillable cartridges. Some member states had pushed for the legislation to ban refillable cartridges based on the nicotine levels. However, if three or more member states prohibit refillable cartridges for health reasons, the European commission could implement an EU-wide ban on the refillable cartridges.
For questions and/or comments, please contact Bryan Haynes, Troutman Sanders Tobacco Law Team Leader, at 804.697.1420 or by email.