Some members of the European Parliament have come under huge pressure from the industry, and insist electronic cigarettes should be freely available in all shops along with refillable nicotine cartridges.
After months of lobbying and much compromising on new rules regulating tobacco, more than 90% of the detail has been agreed between states and MEPs.
The final meeting to try reach agreement is due to take place tomorrow night.
But unexpectedly, MEPs began insisting last week that e-cigarettes should be available with refillable cartridges of liquid nicotine rather than being single-use devices.
The amount of nicotine in each device was to be limited to 2mg — double the quantity normally found in a cigarette.
But the MEPs insist they should be capable of holding up to 15mg for single use e-cigarettes, and 200 mg in refillable cartridges.
“This is enormously high — equivalent to two packs of cigarettes a day for five days we have been told,” said an EU diplomat.
He said there was a fear that these cartridges could be used for other drugs, such as heroin, and which could prove a gateway for abuse.
“The European Parliament has made this a red line under very heavy industry pressure,” he said, adding that the EU states had already made a significant concession by agreeing to e-cigarettes being sold as a consumer product, rather than as a pharmaceutical product.
“One of the risks is that the whole article dealing with e-cigarettes will be scrapped as a solution to getting the rest of the directive agreed — leaving them unregulated which would be the worst possible outcome.”
Other issues agreed is that menthol-flavoured tobacco would be phased out over four years, roll-you-own tobacco would be sold in a maximum weight of 30mg, and that all other flavours would be banned once the rules come into force in about two years time.
Lawyers were working to ensure that while the new rules will ensure that 65% of cigarette packaging must be covered with a health warning, member states can introduce more stringent rules.
Ireland has published draft legislation on plain packs, but the EU laws must word this in such a way that it cannot be challenged under EU single market rules.