Electronic cigaretteDoctors welcome the decision to regulate electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to ensure they are a safe and effective way of cutting down or quitting smoking.

The products will be regulated as medicines by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), or classified as tobacco-containing products if they contain up to 20mg/ml of nicotine, following the adoption of the Tobacco Products Directive by the European Council. 

Doctors should also be aware of the latest NICE guidance on tobacco harm reduction for patients who are not ready or able to quit smoking entirely but wish to cut down.

ArrowRead the BMA response to the WHO report into e-cigarettes

ArrowRead the BMA response to the MHRA announcement

ArrowView the NICE guidance on tobacco harm reduction

Why are we concerned about e-cigarettes?

These devices directly undermine the effects and intentions of existing legislation including the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces.

BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Richard Jarvis

E-cigarettes are battery-operated products designed to replicate smoking behaviour without the use of tobacco. Some look like conventional cigarettes, while others appear more like an electronic device.

They use heat to vaporise a liquid-based solution containing nicotine into an aerosol mist and have been proposed as a way to help smokers quit the habit.

They are subject to limited regulation, and are not licensed as a medicine in the UK.

At the BMA's annual meeting, our members agreed that e-cigarettes should be included in the ban on smoking in public places.


Progress in European Parliament

In October 2013, the European Parliament passed a draft law to introduce a raft of measures aimed at curbing tobacco's appeal to young people, including regulation of e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette proposals:

  • E-cigarettes would be regulated, but not to the same rules as medicinal products unless they are presented as having curative or preventative properties
  • E-cigarettes for which no such claims are made should contain no more than 30mg/ml of nicotine, carry health warnings and should not be sold to those aged under 18 years
  • Manufacturers and importers would have to supply a list of all ingredients
  • E-cigarettes would be subject to the same advertising restrictions as tobacco products.

ArrowFind out more