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. 

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices