Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) work by vaporising nicotine liquid. They are aimed at people who do not want to smoke tobacco but cannot or do not want to overcome their nicotine addiction.
They are mostly produced in China, and marketed in Europe by small and medium-sized firms. The market is growing rapidly.
The variety of products on the market makes it hard to assess their safety, but the available evidence suggests that they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes show some promise for reducing the consumption of tobacco.
They are regulated differently in the Member States: as tobacco products or pharmaceutical products or as consumer products under the General Product Safety Directive.
The European Commission proposed regulating them as medicinal products in its revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. The e-cigarette industry prefers regulation as either consumer products or tobacco products.
Proponents of e-cigarettes argue that they reduce harm to smokers and their environment by delivering nicotine without the harmful effects of tobacco smoke. Opponents warn of harmful substances in e-cigarettes, and point out they can lead to nicotine addiction.