Electronic cigarettes — e-cigarettes — will be available for purchase in tobacco stores in Spain after the commissioner for the marketing of tobacco decided they should be listed under “smoking articles,” meaning that they can be sold without the express authorization of the government.
The commissioner, who answers to the Tax Office, has therefore avoided entering into the international debate over the regulation of a product mired in controversy due to a lack of information about its health effects. “It’s a joke,” said Francisco Camarelles, spokesman for the National Committee for the Prevention of Tobacco, which has been lobbying to have e-cigarettes regulated. “The Health Ministry needs to take matters into its own hands.” The CiU Catalan nationalist coalition asked the government last month to regulate e-cigarettes and to organize a campaign in cooperation with the regions to inform citizens about possible health consequences of their use.
The European Commission approved a directive last month that decided e-cigarettes should not be marketed as a medication, something the companies that make them feared due to the raft of requisites that would impose on their production and sale. But it did impose restrictions similar to those on regular cigarettes, preventing advertising and their sale to minors. The decision on whether or not e-cigarettes, which produce a vapor rather than smoke, should be exempt from smoking bans was left up to the discretion of member nations.
The Observer newspaper in September published evidence that the Philip Morris tobacco company spent 140 million euros and deployed 161 lobbyists in a bid to mold the directive to its own interests. The directive can still be modified as it is yet to be approved by the European Commission.