Cautious council bans sale of e-cigs in its markets

Charter Market, Lancaster.
Charter Market, Lancaster.

A blanket ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes in the district’s markets has been enforced by the city council.

Lancaster City Council cabinet members agreed to carry on with a prior decision to ban market traders from selling the devices until government regulation and licensing is introduced in 2016.

Coun Jon Barry, cabinet member with responsibility for markets, said he believed the current policy should be continued until 2016, when e-cigarettes are to become licensed and regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

He said cabinet should then look at the issue again.

Cabinet members agreed unanimously with the proposal.

Coun Eileen Blamire said: “We don’t know whether they are harmful. We would be rushing into something we don’t know anything about

“I don’t think it would sit easily with us to allow them to be sold at this time.”

Coun David Smith added: “I am totally in favour of waiting for more information because I don’t think we know enough about them yet, so we should err on the side of safety.”

The director of public health in Lancashire said they do not currently support the sale of e-cigarettes.

A spokesman said: “The use of electronic cigarettes is becoming more common, both in Lancashire and at a national level. However, these products are currently unregulated and unlicensed in the UK and therefore vary widely in their composition.”

There are currently three dedicated e-cigs shops in Lancaster city centre, including one in St Nicholas Arcades.

Centre manager Jerry North said: “We checked out the legitimacy of the products before the lease was signed.

“There was no pertinent legislation to prevent them from trading.”

Sue Byers, manager of Morecambe’s Arndale Centre, where there is a kiosk selling e-cigs, said: “We welcome all legitimate traders into the centre and there is no official policy against the sale of e-cigs.”

Both Preston City Council and South Lakeland District Council allow the sale of e-cigs at their markets.

Lancaster City Council already has in place an agreed ‘smoke free policy’ which makes no distinction between tobacco-based products and e-cigs.

This policy applies to users (staff and public) of all council buildings, including the Festival Market and Assembly Rooms, and means the use of e-cigs is already banned in council buildings including the markets.

Requests had been made by market traders to allow the sale of e-cigs on council markets. But as the requests came from existing traders who are only allowed to sell what is specified on their license, they were not allowed.

Rosanna O’Connor, Lancashire’s director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at Public Health England, said: “E-cigarettes provide nicotine to a user without many of the other damaging constituents contained in cigarettes, and do not produce the toxic smoke which seriously harms the health of smokers and those around them, particularly children.

“Research has found that people are regularly using these devices to reduce the harm from smoking or in attempts to quit completely.

“However, e-cigarettes are not currently licenced for this purpose and both their contents and quality varies greatly.

“People are entitled to know that these products are safe and effective, and Public Health England supports on-going plans to regulate e-cigarettes.”