The BMA has welcomed new controls around electronic cigarettes, after a compromise text for a revised EU tobacco directive was approved last week.
The revised directive aims to make tobacco products less attractive by strengthening rules on how tobacco products can be manufactured, presented and sold. In the Council of the European Union vote, 27 of 28 member states were in favour.
Safeguards on electronic cigarettes are to be introduced for the first time, with maximum levels agreed for nicotine concentration and the size of single-use cartridges.
BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson said: ‘The BMA believes that proper regulation is essential to patient safety.
‘It is very pleasing that the EU is moving to put some controls in place in relation to electronic cigarettes.
‘How can doctors advise patients about the safe use of these devices if we do not know the contents for the user and those around them?
‘We must remember that nicotine is a poison, and access needs to be controlled.’
Health risks evaluated
The European Commission will also report on the potential risk to public health from refillable electronic cigarettes, at the latest two years after the directive is implemented by member states.
If at least three member states have banned the refillable electronic cigarettes for ‘justified’ reasons related to a serious risk to human health, the commission may extend the ban to all member states.
‘Today’s agreement is a big step towards a healthier and more prosperous society,’ said the Lithuanian health minister Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis.
‘It is also important for all stakeholders of the EU internal market, since it establishes clearer rules for manufacturers, retailers and consumers.’
Other key measures to be adopted into national law by member states include a ban on fruit flavours and vanilla in tobacco, as well as one on menthol. This will come into effect four years after states adopt the directive.
Stringent packaging rules allowed
Combined picture and text health warnings must cover 65 per cent of the front and back of tobacco products and display a general warning, such as ‘Smoking kills’ and the information message: ‘Tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer.’
The UK would be free to bring in plain packaging, as member states are to be allowed to introduce more stringent rules on additives or packaging of tobacco products.
In addition, tobacco products with misleading labelling, such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, will also be banned.
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union must now formally adopt the directive by vote, which should happen by March next year.
If it goes ahead, the measures could be adopted in the UK by June 2016.
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