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Spain confirms plans to ban e-cigarettes in public

George Mills · 18 Dec 2013, 11:45

Published: 18 Dec 2013 11:45 GMT+01:00

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To date, e-cigarettes have existed in legal limbo in Spain. The market is booming and the devices are widely available in pharmacies and kiosks and even in glamorous boutiques.

But the verdict is still out on the safety of the products which work by vaporizing nicotine liquid — the World Health Organization says people shouldn't use them until their safety has been proven. 

Now Spain's Health Minister Ana Mato has weighed into the debate, saying she wants the devices treated like any other tobacco product, Spain's ABC newspaper reported on Friday.

This would put a stop to the 'smoking' of e-cigarillos in enclosed spaces like offices and restaurants, as well as offices and schools.

It would also mean that device packaging would contain health warnings on the use of products containing nicotine. 

Friday will see Mato sitting down officials from Spain's regional health authorities to start hammering out an agreement on new legislation.

"Electronic cigarettes are an issue we have to regulate," Mato told national public broadcaster TVE recently.

"Some people treat them like a medicine (to give up smoking), for others they are a consumer product, and for others they are tobacco product, but we have to find a balance," the health minister said.

Her words come in the wake of recent announcements by authorities in Andalusia and Catalonia that they plan to ban e-cigarettes in public schools and hospitals.

The Catalan regional health authority said it didn't want the devices becoming "a gateway to smoking". It also argued allowing e-cigarettes could undo all the hard work of anti-tobacco campaigns.    

This is an argument echoed by Spain's anti-tobacco lobby, the CNPT. The group is concerned e-cigarettes could "make the act of smoking look normal again" and points to a lack of quality control in the industry. 

Story continues below…

Mato will also come to table on Wednesday with the European Union closing to forging a deal on e-cigarettes which could allow  national governments to set their own rules regarding a business that Euromonitor estimates brought in over $2 billion in 2012.

Spanish health department figures from 2012 put Spain's smoking rate at 31.6 percent for men and 22.9 percent for women.

A 2013 study in The Lancet showed using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking was at least as effective as other methods like cutting down or using nicotine patches. 

Many e-cigarette dealers, however, market their product as a leisure item.

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

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