How the EU TPD Will Change Vaping – and What You Can Do About It…
Guess which country has the lowest rate of lung cancer in Western Europe?
And the reason is simple.
Snus is an oral tobacco which has become popular as an alternative to cigarettes in Sweden.
In fact, Sweden now has the lowest rate of smoking in Europe, and the highest usage of smokless tobacco.
Snus is very safe. According to Dr Joel Nitzkin of the American Association of Public Health Physicians, there’s no measurable increase in risk to life because of snus use, while the UK’s Royal College Of Physicians estimates Snus is around 1000 times safer than smoking.
So why has the effect not been repeated across the rest of Europe?
And now the EU has vaping in its sights.
In this post we’ll summarise what the EU plan to do, how their plans will affect you and what you can do about it.
Leak Free Refilling Requirement
Demanding “leak free refilling” will result in the vast majority of current refillable products disappearing, to be replaced by e-cigarettes with the same generic and standardised filling mechanism. Goodbye innovation, hello Trabant.
Leak-free refilling sounds innocuous, but could put an end to refillable tank systems, leaving you with nothing more than the cigalike product proven to be the least effective of all e-cigs in helping people to switch.
After all, if you are dripping e-liquid from a bottle into a clearomiser, how can you absolutely guarantee that you do not spill any?
While this requirement could hand the e-cigarette market to the mostly big tobacco producers of cigalike devices, there is some hope.
Like much in the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), a lot depends on how the directive is interpreted into legislation.
Incredibly, it looks like the exact requirements suppliers will have to meet will not be released until weeks or days before the legislation comes into force. What’s more, the consultants hired to advise the EU on leak-free refilling seem to know nothing about ecigs, according to Clive Bates, ex head of Action on Smoking and Health:
— Clive Bates (@Clive_Bates) May 26, 2015
Still, a lot of time and money is being spent on finding solutions to the issue of leak free filling. One of several avenues being investigated is sealed tank systems, which would at least give the same feel and taste of a regular tank system, although it would undoubtedly be more expensive.
Could these then be opened by vapers to refill after first use? We don’t yet know!
Potential Bans on Refillable Devices and Flavours
Above: Based on a survey of users, this graph demonstrates the effect of a potential ban on refillable devices. With over two million ecig users, this would now be far worse. Click here to see the full infographic.
While, the EU reluctantly agreed in the end not to ban refillable devices, it does also allow member states to ban refillable devices, and some member states are planning to allow only medical devices under the TPD.
Even worse, the EU has given itself the option to ban the devices throughout the EU if three member states declare them illegal.
Limits on Liquid Capacity
E-liquid bottles will be limited in size to 10 ml. While not a death blow to the industry, it will increase cost per ml for both suppliers and customers. Annoyingly, this level appears to be based on out of date nicotine advice which relied on a suspect study conducted over 150 years ago to assess safe nicotine levels.
In addition, the maximum clearomiser/cartridge/clearomiser capacity will be limited to 2ml.
Limits on Nicotine Strength – 2% max proposed
Some smokers need a strong e-liquid to help them switch. Research shows that, at least with first and second generation devices, the amount of nicotine absorbed from an e-cigarette is substantially less than that absorbed from a tobacco cigarette.
Indeed, I’ve spoken to a number of vapers who have told me they were unable to switch to ecigs until they had used a 2.4% plus strength e-liquid.
Unfortunately, this section of the vaping community will no longer be catered for, unless they resort to the black market.
(SaveEcigs has an interesting discussion here on the nicotine limit.)
Measured Dose of Nicotine
I’ve seen lots of discussion about how to comply with other aspects of the TPD, but little about how to deal with the requirement that each puff delivers a consistent dose of nicotine.
At the time the TPD was approved, the technology to deliver a measured dose did not even exist, despite at least two million dollars being spent on trying to create an e-cig which would do it.
Some of the big tobacco companies now state they have devices that will comply with regulations. However, this still leaves a massive problem.
You see, smokers and vapers self-titrate, meaning they regulate the amount of nicotine they need at the time. The amount needed can depend on the mood effect needed, the time of the day and the individual smoker/vaper. If the nicotine delivered is controlled, it’s difficult to see how vapers will be able to obtain the quantity of nicotine they need.
For smaller companies and manufacturers, a lot is going to depend on how this part of the legislation is interpreted, or whether the EU can be persuaded to drop this particular aspect of the legislation.
Only EU/USA pharmaceutical grade nicotine, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine is likely to be allowed in e-liquid. (Our own UK produced e-liquid already meets these standards.) What’s more, the controls on e-liquid are likely to be so strict that it is not going to be feasible to use any natural ingredients (which by their nature vary in concentration).
This will be a disaster for the top Chinese e-liquid suppliers, some of which even have their own farms producing all natural ingredients for their e-liquid.
Ironically, according to ECigarette Politics, most Pharma grade nicotine is thought to originate from China or India.
Popular products and many businesses will disappear
There are rumours that at least one popular Chinese supplier have already decided they would prefer to focus on their larger US customers rather than try and make their products TPD compliant.
Small artisan e-liquid makers who produced their own e-juice are likely to disappear. The costs of complying with the new regime and testing requirements (which include emissions testing and an expensive notifications regime) will make it impossible for small businesses to produce their own e-liquid competitively.
Possible ban on internet sales
A number of vapers have interpreted the restrictions on advertising and cross border sales as amounting to a ban on internet sales.
Looking through the text of the TPD, it doesn’t look like this is going to be mandatory, and will rely on interpretation from governments, some of which are more anti-ecigs than others.
An Attack on E-Cig Forums and Blogs?
Worrying, according to a post by Clive Bates post on Save Ecigs, restrictions on advertising could massively damage forums that rely on electronic cigarette advertising.
Forums such as ECigaretteForum, Planet of The Vapes, UK Vapers, The Vaping Forum and many others have proved invaluable sources of information for smokers seeking to switch from cigarettes. With the bigger forums, costs can rise rapidly. While they may not put an end to forums an advertising ban, they would certainly damage them. Blogs that rely on affiliate advertising to pay their costs may also suffer.
The TPD In The UK
The UK government itself is one of the more moderate voices on ecigs. The UK ‘Nudge’ unit, which was appointed by David Cameron, has come out strongly in favour of ecigs, while at the ECig Summit in 2014 UK government representatives described themselves as “luke warm” on electronic cigarettes.
At the same time, the UK Gov also told us that they would not be allowed to modify the TPD. However, there are a lot of gaps in the directive at the moment, and the requirements are incredibly vague. Some of these may be filled in, and with others there is room for interpretation.
The big danger is that this job gets completely handed over to the MHRA. As often noted before, the MHRA is funded and staffed by the same pharmaceutical industry that has been campaigning so hard against the vaping industry that has sent its own NRT sales plunging. It’s also been accused by a Commons committee of corruption. Even worse, under Labour, the MHRA also came very close to implementing an effective ban on ecigs.
However, there is a lot of support for vaping from British scientists and public health bodies. (There are also a number of MPs who vape, and who are unlikely to want to see e-cigs as we know them disappear!) For now, we need to keep up the pressure on the government.
EU Legal Challenge
Totally Wicked has undertaken the mammoth task of challenging the TPD in the EU court. The general sense in the industry is that while they have a very good case, the case is so politically important to the EU that Totally Wicked will not be allowed to win.
I sincerely hope that the industry is wrong, and their case certainly deserves our support!
It’s long been rumoured that the EU is considering a specific tax on electronic cigarettes, and journalists from the Financial Times claim to have seen documents asking excise experts about the “best way to achieve fiscal equal treatment” between e-cigs and tobacco cigarettes. (See this post on Vape Ranks for details.) Indeed, the roots of this could be seen years ago when an Italian MEP raised concerns over the loss of tobacco tax revenue caused by the rise of electronic cigarettes.
(Italy later went on to impose an 80% super tax on e-cigs, a tax which has recently been declared illegal by Italy’s constitutional court.)
Will the EU push on with the tax? Despite the inevitable resistance, I think the lure of additional revenue combined with pressure from the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries could prove too strong!
Conclusion: What can you do?
One of the biggest problems that vaping advocates deal with is the lack of awareness.
Despite efforts by advocates, the average vaper just doesn’t seem to know about the huge threats posed to vaping.
That’s a shame, because there are enough vapers to make a difference. And what’s more, whether or not you like the Conservative government, it has proven to be open to arguments in favour of vaping. It is also likely to be alarmed at the potential loss of over 40,000 direct or indirect jobs that exist because of vaping.
So, if you wish to protect vaping as we know it, there’s two important things to do.
The first is to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of the threat to vaping.
And the second is to keep on writing to your representatives. I’ve been personally told by representatives such as Kay Swinburne MEP that these letters DO make a difference.
At the time of the TPD Martin Callanan, former leader of the EU Conservatives and a passionate supporter of the right to vape, told us:
I would also encourage you to raise awareness among others in the vapourizing community.
The internet offers considerable opportunities to draw the attention of a wide audience to the issue and to contact your elected representatives quickly and easily. If you have not already done so I would encourage you to write to your MP and request him to raise the matter in Westminster, and persuade other e-cigarette users to do the same.
If we bring to the attention of the public, the political world and the media the strong arguments in favour of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction device and the number of lives which can be saved through their use, we have a very strong chance of winning the argument.
Lorien from the New Nicotine Alliance agreed, telling us:
The TPD is coming, but what can we do about it? Many of us will have new MPs thanks to the election – let them know what is going to happen as many have no idea! Pick up the phone and make an appointment at their surgery, sit with them and look them in the eye and make sure they understand just how serious this is. If you can’t make it? Write to them with old fashioned paper and ink as it is the most effective way to get attention in this digital age. If your MP has stayed the same there is no reason not to start again. Get in contact! Be real and be honest, it is the most powerful weapon we have! The battle is not yet lost.
To find out who your representatives are, click here.
Finally, as Winston Churchill said, never, never, never give up – and KBO!*
*A favourite phrase of Winston’s in the war; KBO meant Keep Buggering On!