Just what has the EU got against e-cigs?

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The EU is acting as a roadblock to a consumer-led revolution (Source: Getty)

The e-cig is one of the great success stories of our time. For decades, public health officials have worried about the effects of tobacco smoking, and market-driven innovation has ridden to the rescue. What a triumph the e-cig, or vaping, could prove to be.

Public Health England concluded last year that these little devices are 95 per cent less harmful than traditional smoking, and now another esteemed body has given its backing to the vaping revolution. The Royal College of Physicians conducted an exhaustive study and concluded that e-cigs are not (as is often claimed by po-faced public health puritans) a gateway to traditional smoking.

Furthermore, the docs believe that e-cigs should be widely promoted as a substitute to cigarettes and that they are likely to beneficial to UK public health. This is a ringing endorsement of the benefits of switching from smoking to vaping, and should give the anti-vape lobby pause for thought.

As Professor John Britton, chair of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group says, “This report lays to rest almost all of the concerns over these products and concludes that, with sensible regulation, electronic cigarettes have the potential to make a major contribution towards preventing...premature death.”

On the issue of regulation, the Royal College is clear that it should not be allowed to “significantly [inhibit] the development and use of harm-reduction products by smokers.”

What a blow, therefore, that the EU thinks it knows best. The European Court of Justice is expected to rule on Wednesday against efforts to exempt e-cigs from strict anti-advertising rules coming into force via the European Tobacco Products Directive.

This complex and unhelpful piece of EU legislation insists on treating e-cigs the same as traditional tobacco products, and seeks a ban on print, TV and radio advertising. It also contains an array of rules and regulations that will make life harder for the small, entrepreneurial manufacturers and sellers of e-cigs and accessories.

Not for the first time, the EU shows itself to be the enemy of innovation and, in this case, a roadblock to a consumer-led revolution that could achieve what the anti-smoking lobby have always wanted: fewer smokers.