Over 49% of vapers surveyed by Populous indicated that they would be voting for Brexit. Since the “Leave” vote won, what can the British vaping industry and UK vapers expect to see happen?
The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) & Brexit
The “Leave” vote isn’t an automatic win for those who want to see the Tobacco Products Directive shut down. First, we actually have to transition out of the EU, which may take as long as a couple of years, although Brussels is pushing for a faster turnaround to steady markets. Until the date of the UK’s actual exit, the Tobacco Products Directive still stands. Clive Bates offers a number of very good reasons why the TPD may not be changed by a Brexit vote.
However, what it does mean is that it is now possible to put pressure on the government to opt-out of Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive that governs vaping products. It is unlikely that the TPD vaping laws will be scrapped entirely, since it provides a framework for tobacco harm reduction that, with the exception of Article 20, most lawmakers agree with. In addition, it has already been enshrined into law, and it’s much harder to go back and change laws, even if they are new.
Article 20 could be replaced with legislation based on UK research
What Brexit does is open the door for new legislation to be drafted which reflects the research and opinions of Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians, both of which have come down firmly on the side of e-cigarettes as an effective means of tobacco harm reduction. Overhauling the entire TPD would be a gargantuan task, and with Brexit the government will have its hands full with much bigger issues. But opting out of Article 20 and replacing it with legislation that reflects UK research and not the interests of lobbying on the part of Big Tobacco and pharmaceutical companies will be a much smaller, and potentially actionable ask.
Reasonable legislation should replace Article 20
Arguing for a complete scrapping of any regulations to do with vaping is not the way to win. Article 20 does have some very good components, such as the requirement that eliquids be of high quality and don’t contain harmful ingredients. Advertising to children is also unacceptable, and the requirement for child and tamper proof bottles is sound. Any other responsible eliquid manufacturer would agree.
However, the necessity of submitting recipes for a lengthy approval process stifles the market, and keeps us from implementing new, higher-quality recipes for UK vapers, and banning any advertising at all also has a chilling effect on promoting vaping as an effective means of tobacco harm reduction. What the e cigarette industry needs to do is come up with a sane replacement for Article 20 which takes all of the basic rationale into account, with points that are substantiated by the solid research that has been done in the past few years by our medical associations and establishments.
What can the vaping community do?
If there is to be changes in the legislation, vapers need to keep up political pressure, especially since so many other items will now be on the agenda. Sending a letter to your MP at relatively frequent intervals through this website should help keep vaping on the radar. For our part, we will work with UK industry associations to come up with an actionable, reasonable plan that is best for both industry and the public.