A drag for the makers of e-cigarettes? Crackdown will treat them as a drug

Manufacturers to face tough new tests before they can sell devices that help smokers avoid the lethal effects of tobacco

Miracle cure for smoking or saviour of the tobacco industry, next big thing or fleeting celebrity fad - the electronic cigarette divides opinion, but its status in the UK has just become much clearer.

For the first time e-cigarettes are to be regulated as medicines – meaning they will have to meet strict safety standards or be banned.

The nicotine-containing products, which have become increasingly popular around the world with 1.3m users in the UK, will have to meet stricter Government regulations by 2016. E-cigarettes that meet standards will then be available on prescription from the NHS as an aid to quitting smoking.

The decision, announced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulation Agency (MHRA), covers all nicotine-containing products currently on the market.

E-cigarettes will still be available over the counter in supermarkets and newsagents, but medicines regulation will mean that manufacturers will have to seek a licence and will be banned from advertising them to under 16s. Product labels will have to sign-post to support for quitting smoking.

The Government will also push for an EU law to regulate the products. Licensing will begin in 2016, when a new Europe-wide tobacco directive is due to come into force.

The MHRA said that none of the e-cigarettes currently on the market met safety standards required for licensing as a medicine. They are, however, much safer than tobacco.

Nicotine is the main addictive ingredient of tobacco, but not the cause of harms associated with smoking. On its own the substance is much less of a health risk, but is still extremely addictive and can cause heart problems.

Campaigners say that e-cigarettes could undermine efforts to reduce smoking but there is also increasing evidence that e-cigarettes are being used by smokers as an alternative to Tobacco.

“It is not about banning products that some people find useful,” said Jeremy Mean, group manager at the MHRA. “It is about making sure that smokers have an effective alternative that they can rely on to meet their needs.”

E-cigarettes mimic smoking behaviour by turning nicotine and other chemicals into vapour that is inhaled. They are designed to look like cigarettes, producing a smoke-like vapour, which has led to their use becoming known as “vaping”. They are subject to restrictions on sales in several countries and banned in Brazil, Norway and Singapore.

Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at smoking charity ASH said that e-cigarettes had “enormous public health benefits potentially” but that there were also risks.

The charity estimates that just under a million British smokers and 400,000 non-smokers use the devices. Five per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds have tried it, the charity said, and nine per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds.

The MHRA said that e-cigarettes deemed to be marketed at children would be banned. Some companies sell chocolate and bubblegum-flavoured products. Mr Mean said it was unlikely such products would be licensed.

E-cigarettes are now a £100m industry and there are hundreds of manufacturers, many of them small businesses. Adrian Everett, CEO of Zandera, which makes the leading brand E-Lites, said that restricting the use or availability of the devices would be “a significant health loss.”

“What we don’t want to see is electronic cigarettes made less available than tobacco counterparts and we’d like to see assistance for smaller companies to achieve the parameters required to stay on the market,” he said.

The MHRA revealed that more than one thousand ex-smokers wrote to them during to consultation process over regulation, warning that, if e-cigarettes were banned, they would return to smoking tobacco.

Big tobacco has been making in-roads into the e-cigarette market. Reynolds American, which makes Camels and Pall Mall cigarettes has launched its first smokeless, tobacco-free device, while Marlboro-makers Altria, the biggest US manufacturer is also planning to launch its own e-cigarette.

“We have to watch the tobacco industry’s activity very closely,” Mr Dockrell said. 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor