All electronic cigarettes that are currently on sale in Britain would be banned and removed from the shop shelves under new European Union proposals.

A confidential negotiating document drafted by the European Commission seeks to overturn a vote by MEPs that rejected outlawing them in their present form. Brussels officials fear that there is a “risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes”, according to the paper, and want to include the smoke free alternative under a new EU “tobacco products directive” despite the fact that they contain no tobacco.

The bid to ban e cigarettes drew anger from suppliers in Britain, where some 1.3 million of the current 10 million smokers have switched to the electronic devices.

Fraser Cropper, the chief executive officer of Totally Wicked, an e cigarette supplier based in Lancashire, accused EU officials of wanting to introduce a ban by the back door in defiance of the European Parliament.

“Behind closed doors in Brussels, unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats are drafting proposals that will deny millions of existing and former smokers access to a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes,” he said.

Related Articles

  • Welsh e cigarette ban all you need to know about ‘vaping’

    02 Apr 2014

  • E cigarettes to be banned for under 18s

    25 Jan 2014

  • The U turning Tories are making their lack of conviction obvious

    28 Nov 2013

  • Electronic cigarettes will they make life insurance cheaper?

    29 Oct 2013

  • E cigarettes all you need to know

    13 Oct 2013

  • EU bans packets of 10 and menthol cigarettes

    08 Oct 2013

The proposal came as a town in northern France became the first to impose an electronic cigarette ban in public buildings.

Francois Digard, mayor of Saint Lo in La Manche region of Normandy passed a decree this month outlawing electronic cigarettes, after receiving several complaints from residents.

France, which has an estimated 1.5 million e cigarette users, is currently mulling a ban but the mayor apparently decided to jump the gun after several non smokers said they were unhappy about the devices being smoked in public libraries.

“The e cigarette is not neutral in the immediate environment. With it emitting odour and a bit of smoke it can really bother some people,” Mr Digard told local radio station France Bleu Cotentin.

In Britain, the pub chain JD Wetherspoon and some train operators have already banned the devices.

As cigarette smoking has been increasingly stigmatised and banned in public places, the sale of electronic cigarettes has risen dramatically.

E cigarettes consist of a battery, a cartridge containing nicotine, a solution of propylene glycol or glycerine mixed with water, and an atomiser to turn the solution into a vapour.

The nicotine is delivered without a flame and without tobacco or tar and e cigarette users describe the experience as “vaping” rather than smoking.

They are widely considered a healthier alternative to their tobacco counterparts, though some health officials have begun to question that assumption.

The Dutch public health institute on Wednesday published a policy paper claiming that electronic cigarettes are as harmful as ordinary cigarettes, warning they are addictive and contain poisonous substances.

Because the products are new and do not contain tobacco, they are outside EU law and are more or less unregulated in Britain and across Europe.

But officials in Brussels want that to change, saying the devices “normalise the action of smoking”. “Electronic cigarettes are a tobacco related product and should be regulated within this directive. They simulate smoking behaviour and are increasingly used and marketed to young people and non smokers,” said the commission negotiating paper, seen by the Daily Telegraph.

The commission proposals would ban, by 2017, e cigarettes that produce levels of nicotine above 20 mg per ml, those with refillable cartridges or those designed to taste like tobacco. Suppliers say that all e cigarettes currently available would fall foul of the prohibition.

“Only flavours which are authorized for use in nicotine replacement therapies can be used in electronic cigarettes, unless such a flavour is particularly attractive to young people and non smokers,” said the commission document.

According industry estimates, if current growth rates continue, by 2017, when the EU ban would come into force, there could be nearly five million former people using electronic cigarettes rather than smoking tobacco.

“Forcing e cigarettes off the shelves would be crazy. It would remove a valuable support for people desperate to stop smoking and thus could potentially lead to needless deaths,” said Martin Callanan, a Conservative MEP.

“The commission failed to get their way in their first attempt to put the squeeze on e cigarettes. This attempt is not acceptable either.” The EU legislation will also ban the sale of cigarettes in packets of 10 and outlaw menthol flavoured tobacco as well as requiring graphic health warnings, including colour photographs of tumours, to cover 65 per cent of packaging.

“I never comment on leaked documents,” said a commission spokesman.

Melodie tilson: time to embrace — and regulate — e-cigarettes

Lobbyists amp up efforts to sell washington on e-cigarettes

At present, Health Canada has deemed that e cigarettes with nicotine and e cigarettes that make a health claim such as they can help you quit smoking fall under the Food and Drugs Act. As such, they cannot legally be imported, marketed or sold in Canada until they have undergone rigorous testing for safety, quality and efficacy and received approval as a drug/device. On paper, Canada has a strict regulatory regime for e cigarettes providing the gold standard in consumer protection, but the reality of the marketplace tells a very different story. The Wild West that is the current e cigarette market in Canada serves neither to promote quitting among current smokers nor to prevent youth from starting.

E cigarettes and e liquid with nicotine are widely available both online and at retail, with little enforcement action by Health Canada. Moreover, testing has demonstrated that products labelled as nicotine free often contain nicotine. There are no mandatory requirements regarding ingredient disclosure or provision of accurate information regarding strength of nicotine or relative risk of use. With no rigorous enforcement of good manufacturing practices, users cannot be assured that the devices meet general consumer safety standards. And with no controls on promotion, e cigarette companies, many of which are now owned by major tobacco companies, are using every trick in the tobacco industry s marketing playbook. For the first time in 40 years, ads showing sexy young men and women “smoking” are back on television.

Clearly, the status quo is not working. E cigarettes both with and without nicotine should be regulated the same way and should be subject to the same controls as tobacco products. It makes no sense that the most lethal consumer product ever made cigarettes can be sold with no restriction on nicotine content, but that e cigarettes, which are widely regarded by health researchers as much safer than their tobacco counterparts, cannot contain nicotine unless they are approved as medicines. It is a well known adage that smokers smoke for the nicotine, but die from the smoke. E cigarettes enable smokers to obtain the nicotine to which they are addicted, as well as satisfy the sensory and behavioural aspects of smoking, without inhaling the more than 4,000 chemicals, including over 50 carcinogens, in the tobacco smoke.