I received this today from Chris Davies MEP
Dear Linda –
You will know that the European Parliament voted last month in support of measures intended to ensure the safety of e-cigs, and to curb any marketing directed at under-18s or intended to promote brands linked to tobacco cigarettes.
A clear majority of MEPs made clear that they wanted these controls but NOT the introduction of requirements to classify e-cigs as medicinal products in ways that may increase their cost and restrict their availability.
Negotiations have now begun between representatives of the political groups in the Parliament and the Lithuanian Presidency on behalf of the Council of Ministers (EU governments). They aim to seek agreement on all aspects of the Tobacco Products Directive (and related matters) by the end of the month.
The big issue that divides the two sides is the regulation of e-cigs. The Council and the Commission still want the medicinal approach.
It was the intention of Parliament’s rapporteur, Labour MEP Linda McAvan, who leads the negotiations, to leave the e-cigs issue till last. But Liberal Democrat and Conservative MEPs have insisted that it should be put on the agenda before this, so first discussions will take place mid-month.
I am told that the strongest group in the Parliament, the European Peoples’ Party, is saying that keeping e-cigs out of medicinal regulation is a key concern for them.
This is good, but let’s not pretend that these negotiations are going to be easy. The Commission may well come up with some words which sound as though they are a compromise but actually will not meet our concerns.
In all of this we are not helped by the attitude of the political parties in the House of Commons, all of which appear to have decided to support the medicinal approach before they heard from any e-cig users.
It would help enormously if we could persuade David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, to change their stance. We need them to tell other Governments that they are prepared to consider seriously the approach proposed by the European Parliament.
I have spoken with Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat Health Minister. He tells me that he strongly supports the use of e-cigs as a means of breaking tobacco addiction, but that it is not an issue for which he has responsibility.
I am asking you to contact your MP about this to put pressure on the Government to change its approach. It will be especially useful if you are represented by a Conservative MP.
We want them to look seriously at the amendment proposed by the European Parliament. It meets there concerns about the need for regulation without introduction unnecessary restrictions.
They need to be reminded that it is tobacco, not nicotine, that kills 700,000 in Europe every year. And they need to be reminded also that this is EU legislation, and even if light touch regulation is applied in the UK in other countries the medicinal approach will be much more restrictive. We should try to prevent this.
Remember, MPs (like MEPs!) want to hear from their own constituents not from those living elsewhere. You can find out who your local MP is and how to contact them by visiting www.writetothem.com
Personal letters are most effective, with personal e-mails as back up. It was a single handwritten letter that I received from a constituent, describing how e-cigs had helped them cut smoking, that persuaded me to campaign on this issue.
I shall do what I can in Brussels and Strasbourg to try and ensure that the European Parliament holds to the position we have currently agreed.
Chris Davies MEP
Liberal Democrat environment and health spokesman =
Chris Davies MEP