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UK Categorizes E-cigarettes as Medicines: Increases Regulations for 2016

Update Date: Jun 12, 2013 10:29 AM EDT
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The safety of e-cigarettes, which are electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine, has been subjected to debate endlessly. Since this type of product is relatively new, there have not been a lot of studies done to test whether or not these modern cigarettes help more than they harm. Currently, e-cigarettes are not considered a safe way to quit smoking due to the lack of evidence. Now, in the United Kingdom, e-cigarettes will be reclassified as medicine and will have new regulation guidelines starting in 2016.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the nation will start to regulate this product as a medicine once the new European tobacco laws come into effect. The UK already has some regulations on e-cigarettes, which are considered mild in comparison to some other countries that have plans on banning the product completely. These countries include Brazil, Singapore and Norway. Currently in the UK, statistics report that nearly 1.3 million smokers and ex-smokers use this product.

E-cigarettes became really popular when public places started to ban smoking indoors. This product works by turning nicotine in combination with other chemicals into a vapor that the smoker inhales. The distinctive smell of smoke does not come out of this product. On top of the fact that there is little evidence regarding the safety of the product, some experts and agencies have stressed that these products tend to be poorly manufactured and could have levels of contamination. Furthermore, since there are not that many regulations on how these products are made, there could be even more underlying risks.

"We can't recommend these products because their safety and quality is not assured, and so we will recommend that people don't use them," Jeremy Mean from the MHRA said at a news conference according to BBC news.

"MHRA regulation can ensure that adult smokers can continue to be able to buy e-cigarettes as easily as tobacco, but promotion to children or non-smokers will be prohibited," Deborah Arnott, the chief executive of the health campaign body, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said.

The MHRA plans on finding a way to license the product. The agency has not discussed whether or not it plans on banning the product completely. 

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