ELECTRONIC cigarettes and all other nicotine-containing products are to be regulated as medicines by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Currently treated as consumer products, e-cigarettes have seen significant sales growth in recent times and many c-stores have benefited from selling products with a relatively high retail margin, which can sometimes be available on a sale or return basis.
The regulation will mean the products will be treated like over-the-counter medicines, still available to be sold through c-stores but regulated for quality and effects.
A UK government press announcement said: “The quality of NCPs can vary considerably which is why licensing them as medicines will allow people to have the confidence that they are safe, are of the right quality and work.”
Jeremy Mean, the MHRA’s group manager of vigilance and risk management of medicines, said: “The decision announced today provides a framework that will enable good quality products to be widely available. It’s not about banning products that some people find useful, it’s about making sure that smokers have an effective alternative that they can rely on to meet their needs.”
The UK Government said it will press for EU law to create a Europe-wide legal position on NCPs as medicines through the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive.
The European Commission has said it expects the new legislation to be adopted in 2014 and for it to come into effect in the UK from 2016.
From that point, all NCPs will require a medicine licence. Until that law is in place, the MHRA is encouraging manufacturers with unlicensed products currently on the market to apply for a medicine licence.
But e-cigarette industry group Ecita disagreed with the decision to regulate.
It said: “Nicotine-containing products can only be considered a medicine when they claim to help users quit smoking.
“Electronic cigarettes do not do this: they simply allow users to satisfy their desire for recreational nicotine – a perfectly legal drug – without the thousands of harmful chemicals produced by burning tobacco.”
Image – Electronic cigarettes have provided good business for some c-stores in recent times and a number of products have been built into significant brands. Once the necessary legislation is complete the e-cigs and other nicotine-containing products will be required to gain a licence as an over-the-counter medicine.