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A new Tobacco Products Directive has been adopted by the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

There were 50 votes in favour, 13 against and 8 abstentions. The plenary vote will occur in September 2013. This updated piece of legislation aims to help smokers quit and prevent young people from picking up the habit, which kills about 700,000 Europeans each year.

The new Tobacco Products Directive will regulate cigarette packaging, covering 75 percent of the front and the back with graphic images and 50 percent of the side with written health warnings. It will also minimise the pack sizes to 20 cigarettes or 40 g for tobacco and regulate the pack to only allow flip top lids. The minimum cigarette diameter will be 7.5 mm, banning the slim cigarette, and promoting flavour will be banned, including menthol. The new directive will also regulate internet sales and electronic cigarettes, classifying them as medicinal in the European Union. This last decision has provoked a storm of activity on social networking sites with many people claiming that pharmaceutical and tobacco lobbyists have influenced this decision which will, they say, hinder the access to electronic cigarettes which may only be purchased in accredited pharmacies.

E cigs. We got beat 45 25 in committee, but that&#39 s 25 more that would have been got 6 months ago. Momentum is with us. #e cigs

Chris Davies ( ChrisDaviesMEP) July 10, 2013

This new revision has been contested by tobacco lobbyists whose companies might be affected by such changes. Before to the vote, tobacco lobbyists were reported to have tried influencing Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The Corporate Europe Observatory detailed how tobacco lobbyist have been sending gifts, such as e cigarettes and invitations to drinks and dinners in order to sway MEPs.

On a scale of 1 to 10, they are 11 They re lobbying us to death, said a political advisor to the Corporate Europe Observatory.

The lobbying goes against a World Health Organization s law from 2005 that bans the tobacco industry from interacting with public health policy makers. An investigation by the Corporate Europe Observatory discovered there are 97 full time tobacco lobbyists in Brussels with an annual budget of around 5.3 million euros, outnumbering those lobbying on tobacco regulation from a public health perspective.

Press release from the the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

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European union seeks ban on ‘too realistic’ e-cigarettes

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All electronic cigarettes currently on sale in Britain would be banned and removed from 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. It wants to include the smoke free alternative under a new EU “tobacco products directive” despite the fact they contain no tobacco.

The attempt to ban e cigarettes drew anger from suppliers in Britain, where 1.3 million have switched to the devices. Fraser Cropper, the chief executive officer of Totally Wicked, an e cigarette supplier based in Lancashire, said “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.”

A town in northern France has become the first to impose a ban on electronic cigarettes in public buildings. Francois Digard, the mayor of Saint Lo in the La Manche region of Normandy, passed a decree this month outlawing them. France, which has an estimated 1.5 million e cigarette users, is 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 France Bleu Cotentin radio.

As cigarette smoking has been increasingly stigmatised, 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, however, the Dutch public health institute on Wednesday published a policy paper claiming that electronic cigarettes are as harmful as ordinary cigarettes, saying that 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.

The 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.

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

Martin Callanan, a Conservative MEP, said “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.” A commission spokesman said “I never comment on leaked documents.”