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North East MP refuses to support 'bad cigarette law'

North East Euro MP Martin Callanan has refused to back an agreement reached between MEPs and national governments that would significantly over-regulate electronic cigarettes, taking many of these devices off of the shelf.

The parliament’s environment committee was asked to endorse the agreement in a vote on Wednesday afternoon on the Tobacco Products Directive.

The TPD was originally aimed at discouraging younger people from taking up smoking. However, Mr Callanan, who is also the European Conservatives and Reformists’ Group leader, believes it could have the perverse effect of pushing people who have moved from real cigarettes to electronic cigarettes back to the more harmful option.

The agreement reached in the early hours of the morning last December would enable an EU-wide ban on ‘refillables’ (which comprise a large component of the e-cigs market), if only three EU countries ban them. It would also restrict all but the weaker e-cigarettes (20 mg/ml nicotine).

The parliament had previously voted against a proposal that would have required e-cigarettes to undergo a costly ‘medicinal’ authorisation route (which would have only benefitted major tobacco companies), but the draconian measures introduced by a handful of MEPs and national government representatives go a long way to reinstating the draconian legislation that MEPs voted against, Mr Callanan warned.

Following the vote, he said: “I have now lost count of the number of calls, emails, letters and tweets that electronic cigarette users have sent me on this subject. This is not an organised and well-funded lobby, but individual people with their own stories of how e-cigarettes have helped them to move off of tobacco.

“By banning more powerful e-cigarettes, we will make it harder for people to move off of tobacco, and banning refillables will gut the growing e-cigarettes industry, which has been a major stimulator of small business start-ups in recent years.

“Had this agreement not over-regulated electronic cigarettes then I would have been able to support it, even if some of the provisions were on the zealous end of the scale. We all want to discourage young people from taking up smoking and the directive contains some reasonable ideas.

“Despite the full parliament voting against a de facto ban on many e-cigarettes, a group of MEPs and representatives of national governments met in a closed room, this week, and hammered out 14 pages of legislation on e-cigarettes without any consultation with users themselves. This kind of behaviour is exactly why people lack confidence in the way the EU functions.

“This vote must still be confirmed by the whole parliament, and we will continue to argue that rushing legislation on e-cigarettes is likely to have the perverse effect of encouraging more people back on to real cigarettes. The health effects of getting this wrong could be devastating, so let’s take the time needed to properly consult, and to listen to e-cigarette users across Europe, who too many MEPs have so far ignored.

“If the e-cigarettes proposals are adopted, those using e-cigs to move off of tobacco will suffer, whilst perversely big tobacco companies would benefit. Clearly this is bad law, and I cannot support it.”

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