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GlaxoSmithKline lobbies for restrictions on e-cigs, which compete with its nicotine products

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GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) says it's worried about adequate regulation for e-cigarettes, and it's pushing Europe to require more. After all, more red tape to cut through for e-cigarette makers can't hurt the British pharma giant, which competes against them directly with its Nicorette gum and other quit-smoking products.

As Bloomberg reports, emails from the GSK healthcare division's VP of European public affairs, Sophie Crousse, urge the European Commission (EC) to follow in the U.K.'s footsteps by requiring that e-cigarettes be licensed as medicines. The EC is currently revising its Tobacco Products Directive to regulate products, like e-cigarettes, that are linked to tobacco use but don't actually contain tobacco.

"We believe in responsible and proportionate regulation for all nicotine-containing products as medicinal products," Crousse said in an Oct. 30 email seen by Bloomberg.

As the news service notes, EU government reps and the European Parliament concurred last December that the strongest e-cigarettes, containing a nicotine strength of more than 20 milligrams per milliliter, would need authorization as medicines. The European Parliament will vote next week on the agreement.

Glaxo, as well as fellow smoking-cessation product makers Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Novartis ($NVS), have good reason to care about the regulatory details, with e-cigarettes predicted to bring in $7 billion in sales by the end of this year. According to comments seen by Bloomberg, Glaxo also sought assurances that the amended directive would apply to e-cigarettes already on the market and put the kibosh on e-cigarette advertising.

GSK has backed other regulatory action in the past that would boost its product line; in 2011, it supported a move to nix recommendations against long-term use of nicotine gum, lozenges and patches.

Still, the company insists its No. 1 priority is safety. "We support the smoker's right to choose from a selection of products that have well established safety and efficacy profiles in helping them quit smoking," GSK spokesman Simon Steel told Bloomberg in a statement. "All nicotine-containing products including e-cigarettes should be reviewed and regulated to the same standard of safety."

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