Since the first electronic cigarettes were widely marketed in 2005, e-cigs have exploded in popularity. People like using e-cigs instead of smoking cigarettes for a few reasons. E-cigs were originally marketed as a tool to stop smoking. They work to help people quit by allowing them to gradually decrease the amount of nicotine they use, freeing them from dependence on the drug. However, many people also enjoy using them as alternatives to cigarettes, since the lack of smoke makes them less harmful than cigarettes. They are customizable and vapour fluid comes in a variety of flavours. E-cigs can also be used indoors and do not cause an unpleasant smell on clothing, hair and skin.
E-cigs’ popularity has subject them to legislative scrutiny. In October 2013, the European Parliament voted on a number of tobacco-related resolutions, including a restriction that would have regulated e-cigs as medicinal products. This restriction would have placed e-cigs under the same tight controls as nicotine patches, gums and other stop smoking tools. It would have limited the concentration and flavour formulation of e-liquid that could have been sold.
Although anti-smoking and anti-tobacco activist groups asked the European Parliament to approve the measure, parliament members voted to allow e-cigs to be sold as normal. Tighter restrictions regarding advertisement and sale to minors were passed, which keeps e-cigs out of the hands of young people. A restriction to limit the strength of e-liquid to 30 milligrammes of nicotine per millilitre has been proposed for the future, limiting concentrations higher than 30mg/mL to medicinal products, which have tighter restrictions than most e-cigs and e-liquids.
Although tighter restrictions on e-cigs and e-liquids were mostly rejected by MEPs during the first plenary vote on the Tobacco Products Directive, their status as mostly-unregulated, non-medicinal products is still pending. Parliament has entered the trialogue period of negotiations regarding the Tobacco Products Directive. The Directive has not been debated in Parliament and no date has been announced regarding final votes.
In April 2013, Chris Davies, MEP for North West England, asked for letters from constituents about their opinions on e-cigs, including whether they should be regulated, whether they should be flavoured, what strengths should be available and other issues. Davies received hundreds of letters from e-cig users, many of whom had used the devices successfully to finally quit smoking. People who wrote to him said that e-cigs helped them succeed where other products, including patches and gums, had failed. After the plenary vote, he said that e-cigs were so effective because of their non-medicinal nature as an alternative to cigarettes.
According to Cancer Research UK, e-cigs are “almost certainly” a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. E-liquid contains no tobacco. Most of the health conditions caused by smoking occur because of the inhalation of smoke. E-cigs eliminate this component, delivering nicotine vapor into the lungs via water vapour. Lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory illnesses do not occur from the inhalation of water vapour.