BUSINESS owners in the borough have slammed the Government’s plans to introduce licensing laws to govern the sale of electronic cigarettes, claiming they will be forced to shut down.
The e-cigarette craze which has hit the UK by storm recently, with Wigan being described as the “central hub” for the new smoking alternative, will have to be sold with a licence from 2016, much to the dismay of local company bosses.
The cigarettes, which vaporise a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking, can be seen everywhere in the town with several shops cashing in on the idea.
But if new regulations are approved, e-cigarettes will be classed as medicines, and could then only be sold over the counter and for medicinal purposes. It would mean that local businesses would be likely to lose their rights to sell the product, which now sees almost three million people in the UK using them.
Co-director of Ormskirk Road-based Cloudstix, Darren Sharples, said: “The idea that e-cigarettes will be sold as a medicine is simply ridiculous.
“They are in no way medicinal, and although people do use them to help quit smoking, we do not promote them as a ‘quit smoking’ aid.
“They are an alternative to cigarettes and when you see that there are no recorded health issues with the products we sell compared to the endless list of fatal side effects of tobacco cigarettes, it could be a product that saves millions of lives.”
The decision to introduce licensing regulations to the e-cigarette market was announced by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulation Agency (MHRA) last month and covers all nicotine-containing products currently on the market.
Jeremy Mean, Group Manager of the MHRA, said: “We can’t recommend these products because their safety and quality is not assured, and so we will recommend that people don’t use them.”
Shops selling the e-cigarettes will be able to stay open but will have to apply for a license which will mean having to meet safety standards required for licensing as a medicine. Despite no current laws against selling e-cigarettes to children, Cloudstix do have their own policy of not selling to under-18s and say that they agree that it should be made illegal to sell to minors.
But they say the idea of the regulations to make the products a medicine to help quit smoking is more likely to have the reverse effect and bring people closer to smoking real tobacco cigarettes.
Darren added: “Making e-cigarette products a medicine will increase the price to the same if not more expensive than regular cigarettes, which takes that incentive away. As well as that, removing the flavours to just leave tobacco and menthol are only bringing users closer to smoking real tobacco cigarettes.
“Wigan is definitely the central hub for e-cigarettes. It has become more and more popular in the town this year we even get people from all over the country placing orders with us because our products aren’t as popular in their local areas.”