There has been a lot of uncertainty about vaping since the introduction of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) by the EU in 2014. The directive is aimed at all tobacco products and wants to achieve tighter regulations and control over how these products are sold. The big concern for vapers is Article 20 which specifically covers electronic cigarettes and e liquid. Some members of the vaping community strongly oppose this ruling and feel it’s far too heavy handed for an industry that isn’t even a ‘tobacco’ product.
Article 20 will make it much harder to sell and advertise e cigarettes and the big fear is it will change the face of vaping beyond all recognition. Some would have you believe It’s not quite as strict as the regulations for actual tobacco cigarettes, but their plans to strangle the e-cig industry in red tape can stifle a product that provides the best chance of getting people to quit smoking all together.
According to Nicholas Curry of the Department of Health in the UK, the arguments put out by the TPD are not to discourage vaping, but to reform it into an aid to quit smoking rather than a lifestyle choice. He stated this in reply to Totally Wicked’s Article20 Challenge:
“The department recognises that e-cigarettes have the potential to help smokers quit, and the evidence indicates that they are less harmful than cigarettes. However, they are not risk-free, and therefore should only be used as a means to help smokers quit. At the same time, it is essential that smoking is not encouraged and that children are protected from the dangers of nicotine. The TPD was agreed by the European Parliament and its member states, and published in April 2014. The UK is obligated to implement the TPD and its rules on e-cigarettes. In implementing the new EU rules, the department intends to work towards UK regulation that will ensure that a range of products that people want to use will remain on the market, but are positioned as alternatives to smoking and not a product that introduces children or non-smokers to vaping or smoking.” - Nicholas Curry
To me this doesn’t sound like an attack on e cigarettes, but rather a common sense approach to how they are marketed. The UK seems to be leading the way in common sense with e cigarettes, and the NHS has put their full weight behind them. But the problem lies with the EU and their heavy handed approach to bureaucracy.
The UK has always been a proud proponent of innovation and would recognise the innovations in the world of vaping as a good thing. But the EU with its endless red tape and notions such as obesity is a disability, and ‘too bendy’ bananas are illegal to sell (a rule eventually scrapped) are now targeting vaping, and some say their approach could all but kill the e cigarette industry.
So, what are these new restrictions?
E liquid bottles restricted to 10ml
Nicotine strength no greater than 20mg
Refillable tanks restricted to 2ml
This all means that we’ll have to fill our e cigs more often, and our nicotine intake will be less than it currently is. But really it shouldn’t have a major impact on our vaping. Inconvenient yes, but a reason to go back to tobacco? I don’t think so.
The biggest impact for vapers are the new quality guidelines. This means that any company importing e cigarettes or e liquid into the EU, or any EU manufacturer will have to take full legal responsibility for the quality and safety of the product. On the face of it this sounds quite reasonable, but typical of the EU they’ve taken it too far with their requirements.
New Demands for E Cigarette Companies
These requirements include notifying and submitting information on each and every product, or product variation they wish to sell. Notifications include ingredients lists, detailed emissions data, toxicological data, information on nicotine doses and absorption data, opening and refilling mechanisms and production processes for every product variation. That means every flavour of e liquid and every model of e cigarette and accessories.
Also, every year retailers will have to provide data on sales volumes, product types, consumer preferences and surveys to member EU states.
The upshot of all this is it will drive up prices and see a lot of small manufacturers and importers close shop and go out of business. This is one of the main concerns as it could stifle innovation and severely handicap the industry. Fortunately, we have British MEPs fighting our corner, but as Conservative MEP Martin Callanan stated, the EU commission officials are a sneaky bunch:
“E-cigarette’s are surely far better for you than smoking tobacco. We have fought for sensible regulation on e-cigs that recognises the role they have played in taking many thousands of people off of smoking. The parliament voted for e-cigs to be lightly regulated until we know what regulation might be required. Yet MEPs and commission officials sneaked a whole raft of red tape into back-room negotiations without discussing them with e-cig users or other MEPs. We have drafted huge parts of this law on the back of a fag packet with decisions about smoke filled rooms ironically being made in smoke filled rooms in Brussels.” – Martin Callanan, Conservative MEP
I’m a strong believer in vaping but at the same time I’m aware there are risks involved. Yes, it’s much safer than smoking tobacco, but at the same time I’m still ingesting vapour and it’s still an addiction. If I’m going to be a vaper then I want to be sure it’s as safe as possible, and strict quality controlled testing can only be a good thing. But even I can see that the EU are asking too much of a new industry and it’s likely that Big Tobacco will be at a huge advantage of monopolisation. Conspiracy theories are already rife about Big Tobacco moving in on the e cig market, and surely even the EU can see that a product designed to help people quit smoking shouldn’t be run by the tobacco industry. Just watch The Insider to see where that can lead.
For me, as a vaper I fully support the Totally Wicked campaign in getting Article 20 revised. It doesn’t look like they are going to be too successful, especially as the Advocate General has come down on the side of the EU. So for now it’s a case of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.
In the worst case scenario, if these new regulations go ahead I still don’t think it would stop me vaping. To start with we’ll see a reduction in e liquid flavours, but all the most popular flavours will still be available, and as these get approved I’m sure we’ll see a steady stream of new flavours hitting the market. Hopefully I’ll still have my refillable e cig, even if it has only got a 2ml tank.
There’s a lot of scare mongering among vapers but the fact is we don’t know exactly how these rules are going to be applied.
The UK Department of Health can see the benefits of e cigarettes and I don’t think they’ll do anything to kill the market in the UK. They don’t want to promote e cigs as glamourous the way tobacco was promoted in the 1950s, and I can agree with this. I just hope all the red tape from the EU isn’t held as highly in the UK as it is in Brussels.
Regardless of what happens, Smokshop will continue trading and we’re sure that our most popular products will still be available, even if they are in a slightly restricted form.
On the plus side, with tighter controls we could see a more relaxed view of vaping in public places. This is something that is growing support in the UK and without the demonization of e cigs, they might not be seen as bad as they currently are. Only time will tell and we’re sure that 2016 is going to be a pivotal year for the vaping industry.
In the meantime, if you still haven’t added your support for the Article20 Challenge, you can do so here.