The signatures had been collected via a website, , which proclaimed itself the voice of the forgotten millions in this debate people who had taken up e cigarettes to stop smoking, and their grateful families.

The website, however, was not quite the grass roots effort it claimed to be. The text of the letter it asked people to sign was drafted by a London lobbyist hired by Totally Wicked, an e cigarette company. The website had been set up by a British woman living in Iceland who had previously worked for the owners of Totally Wicked.

As the headquarters of the European Union, Brussels sets regulatory standards that resonate around the world. It rivals Washington as a focus for corporate lobbying, with an estimated 30,000 professional lobbyists with registered lobbying firms and thousands more who operate beneath the radar.

In this case, a determined lobbying campaign, marrying corporate interests in a fledgling but fast growing industry with voices elicited from the general public, was aimed at a compelling public health issue whether e cigarettes, which deliver nicotine without burning tobacco, should be regulated as medicinal products, just as nicotine patches are.

The stakes were substantial. Although e cigarettes have not been linked to any serious health issues, they have been in widespread use for such a short time that researchers have no basis yet for determining if there are long term risks. The decision by the European Union would set the stage for a debate over the extent of regulation in the United States, where the Food and Drug Administration is soon expected to issue its own rules on nicotine delivery devices. The outcome of the battle in Brussels could go a long way in shaping the competitive landscape of the business in Europe and beyond.

The odds seemed very much against the e cigarette industry. Hostility toward corporate lobbying runs deep in the European Union bureaucracy and legislature. And lawmakers were seemingly on track to categorize e cigarettes as medicinal.

Yet the outcome, driven in large part by the industry s success in mobilizing a wave of support from consumers and using it to apply political pressure to lawmakers, amounted to a big victory for e cigarette sellers, one in which they outgunned not just the tobacco companies but also pharmaceutical companies that make competing products for people trying to stop smoking.

To the delight of companies like Totally Wicked, the European Parliament voted Oct. 8 to scrap proposals by health officials to regulate e cigarettes as a medicinal product, which would have restricted their sale to pharmacies in many countries of the 28 nation bloc and imposed costly certification procedures on producers. The Parliament s decision did not end the argument, but it lifted a big, immediate cloud threatening a business that some Wall Street analysts predict could be bigger than tobacco within a decade.

When the European Commission initially proposed last December that e cigarettes be treated like medicines, the industry immediately realized that we had a very big problem and a big fight ahead, recalled Ray Story, the American president of United Tobacco Vapor Group, an e cigarette company with offices in Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Determined to avoid a precedent that would most likely harden the regulation of e cigarettes far beyond Europe, Mr. Story hired EPPA, an established Brussels lobbying company, and a prominent Belgian law firm, Van Bael & Bellis. They pressed the argument that e cigarettes are not a drug and that any decision to classify them as such would be vigorously challenged in court.

Tobacco products directive harms e-cigarettes users to the benefit of big tobacco : european conservatives and reformists group

Blaze electronic cigarettes

European Conservatives and Reformists Group leader Martin Callanan today refused to back an agreement reached between MEPs and national governments that would significantly over regulate electronic cigarettes, taking many of these devices off of the shelf.

The parliament’s environment committee was asked to endorse the agreement in a single vote this afternoon on the Tobacco Products Directive.
The TPD was originally aimed at discouraging younger people from taking up smoking. However, Mr Callanan now believes it could have the perverse effect of pushing people who have moved from real cigarettes to electronic cigarettes back to the more harmful option.

The agreement reached in the early hours of the morning last December would enable an EU wide ban on refillables (which comprise a large component of the e cigs market), if only three EU countries ban them. It would also restrict all but the weaker e cigarettes (20 mg/ml nicotine).

The parliament had previously voted against a proposal that would have required e cigarettes to undergo a costly ‘medicinal’ authorisation route (which would have only benefitted major tobacco companies), but the draconian measures introduced by a handful of MEPs and national government representatives go a long way to reinstating the draconian legislation that MEPs voted against, Mr Callanan warned.

Following the vote, he said

“I have now lost count of the number of calls, emails, letters and tweets that electronic cigarette users have sent me on this subject. This is not an organised and well funded lobby, but individual people with their own stories of how e cigarettes have helped them to move off of tobacco.

“By banning more powerful e cigarettes, we will make it harder for people to move off of tobacco, and banning refillables will gut the growing e cigarettes industry, which has been a major stimulator of small business start ups in recent years.

“Had this agreement not over regulated electronic cigarettes then I would have been able to support it, even if some of the provisions were on the zealous end of the scale. We all want to discourage young people from taking up smoking and the directive contains some reasonable ideas.

“Despite the full parliament voting against a de facto ban on many e cigarettes, a group of MEPs and representatives of national governments met in a closed room, late at night, and hammered out 14 pages of legislation on e cigarettes without any consultation with users themselves. This kind of behaviour is exactly why people lack confidence in the way the EU functions.

“This vote must still be confirmed by the whole parliament, and we will continue to argue that rushing legislation on e cigarettes is likely to have the perverse effect of encouraging more people back on to real cigarettes. The health effects of getting this wrong could be devastating, so let’s take the time needed to properly consult, and to listen to e cigarette users across Europe, who too many MEPs have so far ignored.

“If the e cigarettes proposals are adopted, those using e cigs to move off of tobacco will suffer, whilst perversely big tobacco companies would benefit. Clearly this is bad law, and I cannot support it.”