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Light Touch? On which side of the pond?

Although Britain's Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been saying for some time that it plans to regulate vaping supplies with a "light touch", it begins to appear that her erstwhile colonies across the Atlantic will prove to have the more delicate fingertips, at least, so says the London-based science publication New Scientist in its article US has lighter touch on e-cigarette regulation than EU. The article hails the draft regulations proposed by the Food and Drug Administration in the US as "more pragmatic and scientific than the EU rules [voted on in February]," in the opinion of proponents.

"This is much less onerous than the European Tobacco Products Directive," UK consultant Gerry Stimson, a "harm reduction" or "least harm" proponent, is quoted as saying. Clive Bates, founder of UK anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says the FDA has avoided the "stupid pitfalls" of the European legislation, which was in his opinion based on politics rather than science, and which not only ignored scientific voices, but misquoted them.

The Tobacco Products Directive passed by the European Parliament in February caps nicotine concentrations at 20 milligrams per milliliter, which scientists say will be insufficient for heavy smokers who wish to use vaping as a smoking cessation method (which nobody is allowed to say it is even though everybody thinks so). It also imposes strong packaging limitations, and package warning requirements, and the same advertising restrictions on vaping supplies as on combustible cigarettes, something that is prohibited in the US by free speech provisions of the Bill of Rights, part of the Constitution. The TPD also allows individual member nations the right to treat vaping products as medicines, as the MHRA has vowed to do in Britain, and to outlaw the refillable units favored by many experienced vapers. The Commission even threatens to ban refilllables EU-wide if 3 member nations outlaw them.

Can the European Union regulators be persuaded to pull back to the lighter approach put forward by the Yanks? A lot of European vapers are hoping so. They have formed the European Free Vaping Initiative, established as a Citizens' Initiative of the EU Commission, under regular EU law. This means that if they can collect one million signatures within one year (by November 2014 in this case), the Commission will give a serious hearing to their point of view, basically summed up as the demand to treat vaping supplies as simple consumer products, rather than as tobacco products or pharmaceuticals. The website is set up to receive signatures, and they are also being collected by hand.

The EFVI Facebook page reports that over 60,000 signatures had been collected by the beginning of April, and the company Liberty Flights Electronic Cigarettes reports the number as 63,000, with handwritten signatures on paper still to be added.