Electronic cigarettes are set to be regulated as medicines from 2016, the UK's drugs watchdog has announced. Already banned in some countries, sales of e-cigarettes are unrestricted in the UK at present, but will soon be licensed as nicotine-containing products.
According to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the aim of regulation is to make e-cigarettes, which turn nicotine into a vapour to be inhaled, "safer and more effective" after research revealed that the nicotine levels delivered often differed from what was shown on the label.
The amount of nicotine also differed from batch to batch, and previous studies have suggested that some e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful contaminants.
The MHRA said yesterday that the products would still be available over the counter, and that GPs would be able to prescribe them to smokers wishing to quit. Some 1.3 million Britons are already using the electronic products.
Anti-smoking campaigners supported the move, saying that regulation would also ensure that e-cigarettes are not marketed in a way that targets children or non-smokers.
Unsurprisingly, manufacturers were not so pleased with the decision. According to the Daily Mail, Skycig commercial manager Damien Scott said: "Medical regulation which could restrict access to these lifestyle products is entirely unjustified, particularly given the possibility of these smoking alternatives to potentially save millions of lives."
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