Earlier this year (2017), the UK introduced new regulations for selling and using e-cigarettes. And thousands of vaping merchants fear the restrictions could stifle the industry and force vapers on to the black market or back to tobacco cigarettes.
Until 20th May 2017, the vaping industry was gaining momentum in the UK. It is also supported by a growing body of medical evidence which proposes e-cigarettes are a lower health risk than traditional tobacco cigarettes.
However, now the EU’s Tobacco Products Directives (TPD) has issued demands on vaping companies and retailers, the industry and its customers could suffer.
Article 20 of the TPD states that the amount of e-liquid in a refill should be cut to 10ml, the ingredients should not exceed a maximum of 20mg of nicotine, artificial flavouring is to be removed, and the number of premium devices and sub-ohm vaping tanks cannot exceed 2ml.
What Effect Will The New TPD Regulations Have?
From a customer’s perspective, the new tobacco laws issued by the UK government appears to be beneficial. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes are obligated to clearly label their products and provide definitions of what the e-liquids contain.
Quality control and safety has also been addressed. The law states that vaping containers must be child resistant and tamper proof. Much of this was already being tackled by reputable manufacturers.
The reality of the new laws will see a decrease in flavours, a lower strength and satisfaction of e-liquids and higher costs for products. The concern among manufacturers and retailers is that vapers will revert back to traditional cigarettes.
Because the maximum refill containers have been reduced to 10ml, customers have to buy refills more frequently. The cost of purchasing refills is also expected to rise because of the additional production costs the new laws incur. However, vaping is still expected to cost less than smoking a packet of 20 cigarettes.
There is also a concern that reducing the strength of vapes to 20mg of liquid nicotine will not be sufficient for heavy smokers. This will lead to an increase in home-made liquids and black market purchases where vapers can find nicotine concentrates of up to 72mg.
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The major problem with this directive is that e-liquids available on the black market also contain harmful chemicals regulated vapes do not. E-cigarettes have already helped thousands of smokers kick the habit, but black market products have the potential to be more addictive.
The TPD also states vaping tanks should not exceed a 2ml capacity – more than half the size of the current 5ml tanks. This dramatically limits the number of high-performance vaping devices and sub ohm vaping tanks available to users.
The only exception to the new TPD laws are in instances where vaping is used on medical grounds or where e-cigarettes are herbal-based and have zero nicotine content. E-cigarettes used for medical reasons must be licensed thus treated as an over-the-counter drug.
How Will TPD Effect The Vaping Industry?
The new laws on e-liquid products are prohibitive to everyone involved with vaping. Many suspect that lobbying by tobacco companies has been a major influence in the introduction of the new laws, which essentially makes production within the industry problematic and ultimately more expensive.
The regulations were proposed by ‘non-elected’ members of the European Parliament and ignore how electronic cigarettes benefit users, non-users and the environment. This is not the first time government intervention has prohibited the vaping industry.
In 2013, the Italian government introduced punitive taxes on vaping products and banned the use of e-cigarettes in public. The domestic market subsequently collapsed.
However, vaping is making a dramatic recovery in Italy despite the government’s attempts to protect the earnings it makes on tobacco tax. The turnaround proves there is consumers demand for e-cigarettes over traditional cigarettes.
It is hoped the consumer demand for vaping will have a similar impact across Europe following the latest TPD. If the crackdown has the negative impact as laws in Italy, the “financial hammer blow” will put many retailers out of business.
Manufacturers are already facing hurdles. New liquids and hardware require approval before they can go to market. The approval period will incur thousands of pounds in expenses and take a minimum of six months to pass through the red tape.
Professor Gerry Stimson, a public health expert and leader of the New Nicotine Alliance, believes the new regulations will also have a damaging effect on the health of young smokers and smokers trying to quit. “Vaping has helped 1.5m give up smoking,” Stimson said.
From a public health point of view, vaping has helped reduce the number of smokers that risk damaging their health on tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes have become the most popular cessation aid in the UK. But how long will that last once the prohibitive laws take effect?
Despite the restrictions imposed by EU TPD, it is hoped the vaping industry will continue to thrive. Providing consumers are educated about the benefits of vaping v traditional tobacco cigarettes, consumer demand should continue to grow.