Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion is fighting a bid to introduce new controls to restrict the availability and strength of e-cigarettes.

Vapestick e-cigThe West Midlands region Euro MP says he has had many letters from constituents claiming that e-cigarettes have helped them to stop smoking tobacco.

E-cigarettes produce a vapour containing a small amount of nicotine, similar to the dose in a conventional cigarette, but contain no tobacco and do not emit smoke that causes smoking-related disease and premature death.

As nicotine is highly addictive, the European Commission has proposed new requirements that e-cigarettes should be classified as a medicine and the nicotine content heavily restricted.

But the plans have come under fire from many who say that this would undermine their value as a means of weaning hardened smokers off tobacco.

Phil Bennion said: "As a Liberal, I do not believe in banning something unless it clearly causes harm to others. 

"It is true that nicotine is addictive and more research is needed to establish whether there are any adverse health effects or any likelihood of new e-cigarette users who have never smoked taking up tobacco smoking later, though it seems unlikely.

"The vapour produced by an e-cigarette is not smoke. Nicotine of itself is not a sufficiently dangerous substance to be banned. If it was, we should ban all cigarettes immediately. 

"I agree that light touch regulations are appropriate, perhaps limiting the way they are sold, but there is a danger that going over the top by restricting them as a medicinal product would lose us a valuable weapon in the war against smoking.

"I think former smokers are able to judge for themselves how much nicotine to inhale.

"Many constituents who were hardened tobacco-addicted smokers have written to tell me of the difference that e-cigarettes have made to their lives and their health. 

"Nicotine patches do not work for some people but moving to e-cigarettes has helped them give up. It is clear that the benefits of e-cigarettes far outweigh any disadvantages. 

"I am supporting the efforts of my Lib Dem MEP colleagues Rebecca Taylor and Chris Davies to oppose the current plans in the Public Health Committee of the European Parliament.

"But it looks like an uphill battle to get them changed. I urge local users of e-cigarettes or people who have used them to help give up smoking to write or email MEPs in other parties with their views."


Note: The Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC) lays down rules governing the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco products as well as various forms of smokeless tobacco. On 19th December 2012 the European Commission sent a proposal for a revised Directive to the Council and the European Parliament, which are jointly responsible for deciding on EU legislation in this area. As e-cigarettes are new products, they are currently only very loosely regulated under general consumer products legislation. 

Phil Bennion MEP has received a lot of correspondence from constituents who are concerned about the potential ban of e-cigarettes and their classification as medicine. The committee responsible for this directive is the Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee, where Rebecca Taylor MEP and Chris Davies MEP represent the Lib Dems.


The proposed date for the directive's first reading will be in the plenary week of 10th July 2013, where Phil Bennion will be able to consider the revised proposal in full. The current text of the Directive can be viewed here: