According to Michael Siegel from “The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary” blog, the Tobacco Journal International received information indicating that the European Union may have plans to ban the electronic cigarette unless it is marketed by a pharmaceutical company as a nicotine replacement therapy product. This was the same position that the FDA in the United States took until is was challenged in court. The US court determined that absent any health claims, the electronic cigarette with nicotine is a tobacco product. So what is the difference?
Well, as a tobacco product, the e-cigarette can be sold wherever cigarettes are sold. This makes the most sense to have an impact on current smokers since getting e-cigarettes in front of smokers is key. Also as a tobacco product, there are less stringent rules and regulations to enter the market. This is beneficial to everyone because it means increased competition and product innovations.
Now as an NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) the e-cigarette would be treated as nicotine gum or the patch. This means they would only be allowed to be sold in pharmacies as a quit smoking product. This limits their market exposure and gives smokers the impression that e-cigarettes are solely meant to help them quit smoking. But what about those smokers who like smoking, but want to simply “try something else”? This is the same case when a smoker walks into a gas station to buy cigarettes and sees the smokeless tobacco product Snus. They may not be thinking about quitting smoking, but rather just trying some other form of tobacco. This may lead to reduced consumption of tobacco cigarettes; and isn’t that the point?
I hope the European Union bases their decision on facts and science rather than which existing industry has the most pull. Keep choice alive, especially when that choice is an alternative to a known killer.