WIGAN officials are backing the European Parliament’s ruling to ensure electronic cigarettes are widely available.
MEPs, including Wigan’s representative Chris Davies, voted last week to ensure that e-cigarettes can be sold as freely as their tobacco alternatives.
The European Parliament defeated proposals to classify e-cigs as medicines, potentially restricting their availability. Instead they insisted that e-cigs with a nicotine content of 20mg/l or less should be regarded simply as consumer products.
National government ministers insisted, however, that those with a stronger nicotine content should only be available if classified as pharmaceuticals, arguing it is an addictive substance.
MEPs also agreed new rules to strengthen the warnings on cigarette packs, making sure they cover 65 per cent of the packet.
Mr Davies claims that the new rules bring e-cigs into the mainstream, saying: “This is a compromise that won’t please everyone, but it’s a huge improvement on the alternative of an e-cig ban that was threatened in some countries. We don’t yet know the long term consequences of using e-cigs, but it must be likely that they will be healthier than the tobacco that we know is so damaging.”
Wigan Council also supports the ruling, as it will go some way to helping people quit smoking.
Director of public health, Professor Kate Ardern, said: “Currently the sale of these products is unregulated and unlicensed. Therefore the decision to introduce a regulatory framework is welcome because, whilst e-nicotine products may potentially be less harmful than traditional tobacco products, they are certainly not harm-free. Currently the nicotine levels in many such products are unregulated and it is nicotine which is the addictive substance.
“Smoking prevalence in Wigan borough continues to fall with only 21.6 per cent of adults. Much of this is down to the fantastic efforts of the partners engaged in the work of the Wigan and Leigh Tobacco Control Alliance and our borough-wide smoking cessation services.”
The Children and Families Bill also restricted the supply of electronic cigarettes to under 18s.
Wigan Council assistant director of regulation, Alan Blundell, said: “There is currently no restriction of under-18s purchasing e-cigarettes, and we welcome this proposal. A survey revealed 30 per cent of young people from the borough had bought e-cigarettes, compared with a 20 per cent North West average. And 15 per cent claimed they smoked - the same as the average for the North West and a reduction from 18 per cent in 2009.”