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Oct 08, 2013 04:49 PM EDT

Major Victory For E Cigarettes In Europe, How Will Ruling Impact US?

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Electronic Cigarette manufacturers scored a major victory in Europe on Tuesday. The European Union's decision to allow loose regulation ensures the industry will continue its exponential growth and could impact legislation in the United States, according to The New York Times.

The market for e-cigarettes has exploded in the last few years, reported The Times. In Europe it's a $650 million dollar industry and growing. In the U.S. that number could reach $1.7 billion. Some Wall Street analysts believe it will surpass traditional cigarettes in a few years, as per The Times.

Health agencies and officials have attempted to regulate the use of e-cigarettes to little success, according to The Times; many distributors have sued and won. In the United States, the FDA said it plans to announce its plan in the near future, but that announcement could be delayed by government shutdown, according to The Times.

The proposal in Europe to regulate electronic cigarettes in the same ways as actual cigarettes was also put forth by health officials. Its denial has sparked debate over the true consequences of the electronic devices.

"This is a fantastic result for public health and the millions of smokers around Europe who are switching to e-cigarettes," said Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, corporate affairs director of E-Lites. "Common sense has prevailed."

Some of those presiding over the decision in Europe worried that electronic cigarettes act as a gateway drug to actual inhalation, according to The New York Times. But that misses the potential of vaporizing, according to Chris Davies, a strong advocate for e-cigarettes.

 "You are missing the big picture - these are a potential game-changer in the fight against tobacco," Davies said.

In reference to the 700,000 deaths each year caused by smoking-related maladies, he said, "Reducing that number is our goal and we should not make it more difficult to buy e-cigarettes than tobacco."

"E-cigarettes liberated me from tobacco - they saved my life," Brice Lepoutre, head of a French association of e-cigarette enthusiasts said. 

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