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LONDON -- The electronic cigarette industry is still waiting for regulatory direction in the United States. However, things are clearer in the United Kingdom now that officials across the Atlantic Ocean have decided to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said it will treat electronic cigarettes as medicines, "so that people using these products have the confidence they are safe, are of the right quality and work." The agency will regulate other products containing nicotine in a similar fashion, according to The Associated Press.
Cigarettes are exempt from the regulation. E-cigarettes and other nicotine products will be licensed in the United Kingdom beginning in 2016, giving manufacturers time to ensure their products comply with all standards for medicines. The U.K. regulatory authority said e-cigarettes aren't recommended for use until then, but it won't ban them entirely, the report stated.
"While it's best to quit completely, I realize that not every smoker can and it is much better to get nicotine from safer sources such as nicotine replacement therapy," said Sally Davies, Britain's chief medical officer. "It's only right [e-cigarettes] are properly regulated to be safe and work effectively."
Once e-cigarettes and other nicotine products are licensed by the U.K. regulator, they will be available for sale as over-the-counter medicines. Britain said it will now push for European law to recognize nicotine products as medicines.
Damien Scott, commercial manager of e-cigarette maker SKYCIG, said until now, the products have been self-regulated to ensure they meet consumer standards.
"Medical regulation, which could restrict access to these lifestyle products, is entirely unjustified," he said.