Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Are politicians finally warming to electronic cigarettes?

Over the last couple of years the electronic cigarette industry and politicians have been at loggerheads with regards to the future potential for the industry. We have seen rumours, speculation and in some cases untruths circulated and published as "fact" without the necessary data to back these up. There has been speculation that governments around the world are priming the electronic cigarette industry as the next big tax income stream although to date no national government and no local government has been brave enough to do this.

Interestingly, the last few days have seen speculation that some politicians at least seem to be warming to electronic cigarettes. News that a legal challenge to the European Union Tobacco Products Directive was not challenged by the UK government, instead it was passed to the European Union Court of Justice, surprised many. So, what does this mean?


The UK government had the power to block the action

Under European Union laws any legal action against the European Union needs to overcome the local government first. In this instance the UK government would have been made aware of the legal challenge although rather than attempt to block it in the UK courts, and ensure it never reached the European Union Court of Justice, the UK government decided to waive the action straight through.

There is speculation as to whether the UK government is finally warming to electronic cigarettes or whether indeed the authorities believed the legal case was so strong that there was no point holding it up in the UK. Either way, 6 October 2014 could turn out to be a pivotal day for the electronic cigarette industry with the first hearing of the legal action in the European Union Court of Justice. This will begin what could turn out to be a long drawnout process which many experts believe could drag on for many years and potentially delay the introduction of various European Union regulations.

Is flawed data behind this new legal action?

There has been speculation for some time that the European Union used potentially flawed data to arrive at its regulatory conclusions for the future of the electronic cigarette industry. Indeed just a few weeks ago we had the author of a report used as the backbone for the proposed regulatory structure suggesting that his data and his conclusions had been misinterpreted, whether inadvertently or deliberately.

It is also worth noting that even though the European Parliament initially rejected proposed regulatory changes they were simply rushed through the Parliament with no debate and no public input just a few weeks later. There is speculation, as there always seems to be regarding the European Union, about the quality of data used in arriving at the regulatory decisions and indeed whether there was undue influence exerted by any third parties. It will be interesting to see whether this legal action makes it to a full blown court hearing and indeed whether the European Union is forced to place various supporting documents in the public domain.

Conclusion

It is interesting to see that the UK government decided not to stand in the way of the ongoing legal action against the European Union Tobacco Products Directive. Instead the authorities simply waved the legal action through with hurdle one now out of the way as we move towards a full-blown court case. There is now the potential for legal wrangling to run into years which could delay the introduction of watered down and more sensible regulations which the industry has no issues with. Perhaps if the European Union had been more receptive to comments and ideas from the industry, from the vaping community and a wider range of medical professionals, we would not be in the mess we are in today?

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