The market for e cigarettes has exploded in the last few years, reported The Times. In Europe it’s a $650 million dollar industry and growing. In the U.S. that number could reach $1.7 billion. Some Wall Street analysts believe it will surpass traditional cigarettes in a few years, as per The Times.

Health agencies and officials have attempted to regulate the use of e cigarettes to little success, according to The Times many distributors have sued and won. In the United States, the FDA said it plans to announce its plan in the near future, but that announcement could be delayed by government shutdown, according to The Times.

The proposal in Europe to regulate electronic cigarettes in the same ways as actual cigarettes was also put forth by health officials. Its denial has sparked debate over the true consequences of the electronic devices.

“This is a fantastic result for public health and the millions of smokers around Europe who are switching to e cigarettes,” said Charles Hamshaw Thomas, corporate affairs director of E Lites. “Common sense has prevailed.”

Some of those presiding over the decision in Europe worried that electronic cigarettes act as a gateway drug to actual inhalation, according to The New York Times. But that misses the potential of vaporizing, according to Chris Davies, a strong advocate for e cigarettes.

“You are missing the big picture these are a potential game changer in the fight against tobacco,” Davies said.

In reference to the 700,000 deaths each year caused by smoking related maladies, he said, “Reducing that number is our goal and we should not make it more difficult to buy e cigarettes than tobacco.”

“E cigarettes liberated me from tobacco they saved my life,” Brice Lepoutre, head of a French association of e cigarette enthusiasts said.

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New eu legislation will ban menthol cigarettes

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Menthol and other flavours will be banned, but there is to be no ban on packs of slim cigarettes.

Some campaigners had called for e cigarettes to be subjected to the same regulation as nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and gum.

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.

While nicotine is the addictive substance that keeps smokers hooked, Cancer Research UK says it is the toxic cocktail of chemicals in tobacco smoke that kills half of all long term smokers.

The lack of tobacco in e cigarettes means they are “almost certainly” a much safer way of getting a nicotine hit than smoking cigarettes, it says.

Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies said after the vote “E cigs can be a game changer in the fight against smoking. Hundreds of former smokers have written to tell me they have helped them give up cigarettes when nothing else worked.

“They are successful because they are not medicines but products that smokers enjoy using as an alternative to cigarettes. We should not do anything that makes e cigs harder to obtain than tobacco cigarettes.”

Adrian Everett, chief executive of e cigarette brand E Lites, said “This is a fantastic result for public health and the millions of smokers around Europe who are switching to e cigarettes.”

The Scottish Government has already announced plans to introduce plain packaging as part of its strategy to create a smoke free country in 20 years.