Fear and Trepidation for Electronic Cigarette Traders in the UK
by James Dunworth
Electronic cigarette users and retailers worry that a changing UK attitude towards electronic cigarettes may mean the end of the device in the UK.
A certain feeling of smugness and an attitude of lethargy had settled on UK e-cigarette companies and e-cigarette users - or vapers - in the UK.
While the Americans battled the public health groups, manipulation of scientific studies, local state governments and the FDA, the much smaller UK e-cigarette community could relax in the knowledge that their own anti-smoking charity (ASH UK) was cautiously supportive of the Electronic Cigarette (link).
Trading Standards were making companies jump through hoops to get their products okayed (they weren't actually allowed to say they were "approved") but at least the regulatory body weren't stopping them from being sold.
As a result, the Americans e-cigarette company got organised with consumer and manufacturers' groups and started lobbying MPs and educating journalists. The Brits did nothing.
Then, suddenly, the MHRA announced that it wanted to regulate the device as a medicine (link).
In the process, they offered three choices.
1. Regulate it as a medicine now.
2. Regulate it as a medicine later.
3. Do nothing.
However, as they stated option 3 was "not an option" the choice came down to "regulate it as a medicine or regulate it as a medicine."
The Electronic Cigarette company interprets the move differently. Jason Cropper has been contacting his customers and telling them the electronic cigarette is going to be banned.
What makes traders sweat with fear is that the MHRA, like America's FDA, is funded by pharmaceutical companies who manufacture competing nicotine cessation products.
Retailers fear that the pharmaceutical industry is planning to either:
a. Try to shut down the industry. or
b. Take it over for themselves - having first removed the established competition.
The close relationship between the MHRA and these companies has been revealed by a parliamentary select committee investigation into the pharmaceutical industry:
The relationship between the industry and the MHRA is naturally close. There are regular interchanges of staff, common policy objectives, agreed processes, shared perspectives and routine contact and consultation. Many of the senior staff of the MHRA have previously worked with the industry ...
Reported here: MHRA (in Jabberwock - link removed since this article was first published.)
Electronic cigarette traders are fighting the move now, but whether they will be successful remains to be seen.
But one things is clear.
UK vapers are no longer smug...
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Also see: The Electronic Cigarette Glossary