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In a move which had been expected, UK eliquid and electronic cigarette company Totally Wicked has mounted a legal challenge to the European Union’s attempt to restrain growth in the electronic cigarette market. Ever since the European Parliament initially refused greater sanctions on the industry, but was later overpowered to agree a behind closed doors settlement, many people were expecting a legal challenge. The UK-based operator has been given official approval to challenge the EU Tobacco Products Directive in the EU’s court of justice.
It is unclear at this moment in time whether the legal action will be successful but it will certainly open a can of worms for the European Union and the way in which it seems to have steamrollered through various restrictions. Indeed there have been allegations that the European Union already had a predetermined policy relating to electronic cigarette industry before this was initially rejected by the European Parliament only to be forced through days later.
What is the basis for the legal challenge?
The simple criteria behind the challenge is that by classifying electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, thereby bringing them under the umbrella of the Tobacco Products Directive, this would put some electronic cigarette products under even stricter regulations than some tobacco products. Indeed for many people the idea of classifying electronic cigarettes as tobacco products is unjust in itself especially when you bear in mind recent research regarding health issues.
There is also a further accusation behind the legal challenge with a belief that the proposed restrictions could be contrary to established EU law. This challenge has certainly caught the attention of European politicians and we await with bated breath further developments and the release of potentially damaging documentation into the public domain. It will be interesting to see whether ongoing accusations of collaboration between tobacco cigarette companies and the European Union will indeed emerge from the potential mountain of paperwork which could be released if the issue goes to court.
How might this move impact EU electronic cigarette regulations?
There will be an initial hearing on 6 October 2014 with the potential for a full-blown hearing sometime during 2015. When you bear in mind that the proposed electronic cigarette regulations will not come into play until 2016, this does leave some scope for European politicians to clear this legal hurdle. However, what would happen if this legal challenge was proven in the EU’s Court of Justice?
If this legal action is successful it will potentially delay the introduction of new regulations until all legal avenues have been exhausted by all parties. Depending on the final outcome we could see a new regulatory review, amendments to the suggested regulatory changes or the basis for the restrictions could be deemed illegal which would be a disaster for the EU.
This legal challenge by Totally Wicked has not surprised those who follow the electronic cigarette industry with rumours of such action for the last few months. It will be interesting to see whether the legal action actually makes it into the courtroom and whether the mountain of paperwork associated with the reclassification of electronic cigarettes under the Tobacco products directive will be released into the public domain. There have been rumours and counter rumours of collaboration between various political parties and tobacco companies although there has been no definitive proof as yet. Could this potentially open a can of worms?
Mark Benson is a contributing author for Spinfuel eMagazine. His continuing columns will bring a levelheaded approach to the dynamics involved in realizing a positive future for the e-cigarette industry. For more information on OK Eliquids and other products available please visit the OKCigs website.