The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, has approved comprehensive tobacco regulations to curb smoking in Europe. The rules include a ban on menthol cigarettes and new restrictions on electronic cigarettes.
The law isn’t final; it still has to be reviewed by other branches of the European Union’s government. But its passage means that a the hotly contested debate over tobacco products in Europe is finally nearing an end.
Defenders of the smokeless tobacco product, speaking to the New York Times , cheered Parliament’s decision to spare e-cigarettes from a proposal to regulate them as medical devices, which would have restricted their sale to pharmacies in some countries.
But the measure imposed stricter limits on advertising in Europe, a subject that is sure to be controversial in the U.S. as well.
“The European vote is a step in the right direction” Craig Weiss, the CEO of NJOY, a market leader in the American e-cigarette market wrote in an email. “At the same time, we are concerned about the proposed advertising restrictions. It is critical that companies like NJOY be able to fully inform tobacco smokers that they have an alternative.”
American tobacco companies have endured tough advertising restrictions since 1970, including a ban on television advertising that does not extend to e-cigarettes. E-cigarette makers, taking advantage of the current lack of regulation, have expanded their marketing efforts. In the first quarter of 2013, according to Kantar Media, spending on e-cigarette advertising rose to $15.7 million in the U.S., up from $2 million in the same period last year.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will not regulate electronic cigarettes as medical devices either, but it has set a deadline to begin the process of regulating them as tobacco product by the end of October, a deadline that could be pushed back by the government shutdown. TIME explored the coming regulations in an investigation in September. Restrictions on print, radio, and television advertising are a possibility.