E-Cig Legislation & The Smoking Law

Smoking law in the United Kingdom

Electronic cigarettes may offer users many advantages – they are, for example, better for your health and significantly cheaper than conventional cigarettes – but like any relatively new product, they have met with some suspicion and resistance and their legal status varies widely around the globe.

European Union

Surprisingly, the European Union has not passed any specific legislation on electronic cigarettes, leaving each member state to make its own decision.

United Kingdom

The UK takes a liberal approach, placing no restrictions on the sale or use of electronic cigarettes, which are also specifically exempted from smoking legislation. They are frequently sold in pubs and clubs for indoor use.

Other European states have taken a more cautious approach. Denmark, Norway, Sweden or Finland class nicotine as a medicinal product and so only allow the sale of electronic cigarettes with nicotine-free cartridges although users can import supplies from other countries.

In the Netherlands, electronic cigarettes may be bought and sold freely, but advertising is forbidden.


In the US, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) engaged in a lengthy legal battle for the right to regulate electronic cigarettes as ‘drug delivery devices’ subject to stringent medical regulation. In December 2010, the FDA finally lost the case. As a result electronic cigarettes have the same legal status as tobacco products, and are therefore subject to the same restrictions, such as a 2009 ban on flavoured tobacco of all kinds.

Other countries have taken a much harder stance – both Brazil and Australia, for example, have placed an outright ban on electronic cigarettes.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised by this legal muddle. Electronic cigarettes, after all, occupy territory between tobacco cigarettes and medically recognised smoking cessation devices like the familiar nicotine patch.

As time passes and electronic cigarettes become an increasingly familiar presence in pubs, clubs, bars and on street corners, legal restrictions will inevitably ease.

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