The MEPs accepted an amendment from UK Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs, who argued that classifying e-cigarettes as medicines would restrict their availability and raise their price.
The vote goes against the recommendation of England’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who argued that classification as medical products would raise the standard and clinical recognition of e-cigarettes.
The MEPs also voted for a number of measures to reduce smoking among young people, including: the rule that health warnings must cover at least 65% of both sides of a pack of cigarettes; the banning of packs of fewer than 20 cigarettes; and the banning of menthol and other flavoured cigarettes, which target young people.
Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies commented: “E-cigarettes can be a game changer in the fight against smoking. They are successful because they are not medicines but products that smokers enjoy using as an alternative to cigarettes.”
However, e-cigarettes will still have to meet product safety standards, and their advertising will be restricted.
Tobacco-related illness costs the EU economy about €500bn per year.