Source: De Morgen, January 5, 2008
The Federal Bureau for Pharmaceuticals and Health products (‘Federaal Agentschap voor Geneesmiddelen en Gezondheidsproducten’, FAGG) decided that the electrical cigarette Ruyan must be taken out of the shops. A Dutch firm has already sold 4.000 of these cigarettes in Belgium. According to the inspectors of the FAGG the cigarette is a medicine because it contains nicotine.
Medicines, however, can only be sold in Belgium after thorough investigation and official recognition of the product. In this case the vendor lacks the appropriate official approval as he never started the procedure to get official recognition as a medicine. In the vendor’s view the Ruyan cigarette is an ‘alternative to the common cigarette’ and not a medicine to quit smoking.
“That doesn’t matter”, says An Eeckhout of the FAGG, “As soon as the product contains nicotine, it is to be regarded as a medicine”. Densom offers a selection of pipes, cigarettes and cigars without carcinogenic substances and only nicotine (between 6 and 16 milligrams) and hydrogen. The ‘electrical cigarette’ can also be refilled, and therefore reduces smoking costs.
The Dutch company Densom introduced the Ruyan cigarette to the Belgian market 6 months ago. The company also had plans to establish several branches in the Benelux. But they already got a negative answer from the Dutch Health Inspection that concluded that the product was a medicine without proper recognition and therefore was sold illegally. Hence Ruyan cigarettes are only sold online in the Netherlands.
Densom’s manager, Edwin Dröge, denies any problems with the approval in the Netherlands: “On the Dutch market the cigarette is not kicking in yet , because there’s no smoking ban, yet. On the first of July we were going to establish a branch in the Netherlands too”. Food and Goods Authorities and Health Inspection contradict these assumptions. They say a ban is definitely under way. In Belgium sales continued all this time until now.
More than 4.000 cigarettes sold
The Densom shop in Brasschaat has already sold 4.000 electrical cigarettes since August this year. They are now planning to open up a second shop in Antwerp, on the Oude Korenmarkt.
Manager Edwin Dröge explains the success of the electrical cigarette as a consequence of the Belgian smoking ban: “You can enter a restaurant with an electrical cigarette, because the substance you exhale is pure hydrogen. We’re not selling the cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, but as a means to continue smoking despite the smoking ban.”
The FAGG does not agree. An Eeckhout thinks the sale is illegal and will be terminated as soon as possible. Earlier, another electrical cigarette, ‘Supersmoker’, was taken from the Belgian shelves for the same reason. Dröge claims, however, that there are substantial differences in composition between his cigarette and ‘Supersmoker’. The FAGG only seems interested in the presence of nicotine, which is certainly a component as stated on Densom’s website.
Dutch Health Minister Ab Klink already hinted to be in favour of agreements on a European level on the tolerance for the electrical cigarette. The cigarette hasn’t proven to be dangerous. Nevertheless it needs to be examined by the proper authorities. (Tina De Gendt)