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European Parliament Votes Down Tight Regulation of E-Cigarettes

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Members of the European Parliament on Tuesday voted against tight regulations for e-cigarettes, according to The New York Times. The vote comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prepares to issue regulations for the devices.

The FDA was expected to issue regulations by the end of October, but they may be delayed by the partial government shutdown, the article notes.

While the European Parliament exempted e-cigarettes from heavy regulation, it did impose tight restrictions on advertising and sponsorship. The devices cannot be sold legally to anyone under age 18. The legislation does not address where e-cigarettes can be used.

The Parliament also banned conventional cigarettes with menthol flavoring. That measure will take effect in eight years. The legislators voted to require cigarette packs to carry health warnings in pictures and text that covers 65 percent of the packages. Currently the warnings cover 40 percent of cigarette packages.

In the United States, makers of e-cigarettes are lobbying the FDA to regulate their products less strictly than traditional cigarettes. The FDA has authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco, but not e-cigarettes, pipe tobacco or cigars. Under a 2009 law, the FDA can expand its authority over all tobacco products, but it must first issue new regulations. The agency could restrict how e-cigarettes are marketed, where they are sold and who can purchase them.

The makers of Marlboro, Newport and Camel cigarettes have entered the e-cigarette market, which is projected to approach $2 billion this year. The companies hope to avoid the type of heavy regulation currently governing the traditional cigarette market.

Last month, the attorneys general of 41 states asked the FDA to issue regulations for e-cigarettes by the end of October. They said they want to ensure e-cigarette companies do not continue to sell or advertise to minors.

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