A NORTH-East MEP has called on users of electronic cigarettes to help him fight “draconian” laws which would regulate their use.
Martin Callanan claims a proposed ban on refillable e-cigarettes, alongside heavy restrictions on all but the weakest so-called vapers, would stop people from using the gadgets to quit smoking.
The European Parliament will vote on Wednesday on the Tobacco Products Directive, which is aimed at introducing measures to discourage younger people from smoking.
These include a minimum pack size of 20 cigarettes and large health warning labels.
However, Mr Callanan argues that while they are still harmful, e-cigarettes are a preferable alternative to tobacco.
The Conservative MEP said scores of North-East users had been in touch asking him to defend their right to continue using electronic cigarettes, but he needed more people to contact him.
He said: "Electronic cigarettes are offering many smokers the opportunity to come off of tobacco.
"By regulating many e-cigarettes out of existence we risk unintentionally sending people who have stopped smoking tobacco back onto this more harmful product.
"I am not saying that e-cigs should be unregulated, but just that they should be regulated according to the benefits they bring to those people who are trying to give up on tobacco."
The MEP is urging users worried about the ban to contact him at martincallanan.com.
Former 60-a-day smoker David Dorn, 58, from Sunderland, has campaigned against the reclassification of e-cigarettes.
He said: “I am afraid that the EU could be about to make a big mistake by over-regulating and limiting choice, which will simply lead to fewer people switching. That cannot be a sensible approach."
E-cigarettes provide users with a nicotine hit like normal tobacco, but without the carbon monoxide, smoke or tar.
Ailsa Rutter, director of anti-smoking North-East campaign group Fresh, said her group recognised the role e-cigarettes could play.
However, she added that nicotine was still a highly addictive substance.
“The sort of glamorous advertising we are now seeing, including link ups with celebs and football clubs, risks making smoking more attractive to children.
"There are also concerns about quality control of cheap imports and whether they are effective.
“This is why we support the EU Products Directive.”