LONDON A leaked document from the European Commission reveals that the European Union (EU) intends to impose stricter bans on electronic cigarettes by treating them like regular tobacco cigarettes, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Citing a risk that electronic cigarettes can develop into a gateway to normal cigarettes, the commission intends to group e cigarettes under a new tobacco products directive, treating them as a tobacco related product, and as such, be regulated within this directive by 2017.

The proposal targets e cigarettes that release levels of nicotine in excess of 20 milligrams per milliliter, allow for refillable cartridges, or provide a taste imitating tobacco. According to the Telegraph, such restrictions would outlaw all e cigarettes that are currently on store shelves.

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

Fraser Cropper, the chief executive officer of Totally Wicked, an e cigarette supplier, 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.

Last week, the Dutch public health institute published a paper claiming that electronic cigarettes are equally as harmful as ordinary cigarettes, because they are addictive and contain poisonous substances.

But because the products do not contain tobacco, they currently fall outside EU law and are more or less unregulated across Europe.

EU officials want that to change, maintaining the devices normalize the action of smoking.

Electronic cigarettes are a tobacco related product and should be regulated within this directive. They simulate smoking behavior and are increasingly used and marketed to young people and non smokers, said the commission paper.

According to industry estimates, if current e cigarette growth rates continue, when the EU ban would come into force in 2017, there could be nearly five million consumers using electronic cigarettes rather than tobacco.

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