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Parliamentary questions
22 December 2009
by Frédérique Ries (ALDE)
to the Commission

 Subject: Future legislation on electronic cigarettes
 Answer in writing 

For over a decade the European Union has been pursuing a courageous and ambitious policy aiming to prevent smoking and protect citizens from cigarette smoke (passive smoking). To be effective in the long term, this public health policy should also lay down rules governing new marketing techniques which aim to either portray smoking as part of everyday life or present it in a favourable light, and which target young people in particular.

The most recent example of this has been the market launch of the electronic cigarette, a battery-powered device which looks like a real cigarette and is designed to be used as such in what is a relatively unclear legal framework. Since its invention in China in 2004, the electronic cigarette has been the subject of a modern marketing campaign, enhanced by the Internet, and no specifications have been provided in terms of maximum dose or secondary effects. Furthermore, electronic cigarettes are available in different flavours, such as chocolate, which make them particularly attractive to children.

A more serious problem is that when the user inhales nicotine is released from a rechargeable cartridge. Introduced into the respiratory tracts in this way, it is quickly absorbed into the lungs. Several reservations have since been voiced relating, for example, to the type and concentration of potentially dangerous contaminants present in the cartridge and to the amount of nicotine inhaled when the product is used. One of the contaminants that has been detected is diethylene glycol, an anti-freezing agent which is toxic for humans. The fact that the WHO does not consider electronic cigarettes to be a stop smoking aid should also not be overlooked.

Does the Commission agree that the safety of electronic cigarettes and their potential to make smokers dependent should be analysed as part of a regularly updated, scientific study?

Considering the other reservations with regard to public health, does the Commission intend to act promptly to set out a legal framework for ‘e-cigarettes’ at European level by proposing either an amendment to Directive 2001/83/EC(1) on medicinal products or else a revision of Directive 1993/42/EC(2) concerning medical devices?

(1)OJ L 311, 28.11.2001, p. 67.
(2)OJ L 169, 12.7.1993, p. 1.

Original language of question: FROJ C 10 E, 14/01/2011
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