British regulators have determined that electronic cigarettes should be treated as non-prescription medicines.
On Wednesday, the U.K. Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that manufacturers would have to apply for a license to sell e-cigs. Despite the decision to regulate the smokeless cigarettes, which are positioned as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigs will continue to be sold through convenience shops in Britain. U.K. regulators say that the additional regulatory scrutiny in designed to increase the quality of existing e-cigs, Reuters notes.
E-cigs use a battery-powered device to heat a reserve of liquid menthol. Users then inhale vapors, instead of actual smoke. With public health officials increasing pressure on cigarette makers and millions of people trying to quit smoking, e-cigs are seen as a way for cigarette companies to retain smokers while addressing health concerns.
Most major cigarette makers, including British American Tobacco (BTI), Reynolds American (RAI) and Lorillard (LO) already market them. This week, Altria Group (MO), the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, announced that it would begin test marking e-cigs in Indiana this summer.
Britain joins a number of countries are choosing to regulate e-cigs, while others — including Norway and Brazil — have prohibited them altogether.