UK Regulation of Electronic Cigarette: Good or Bad?

The MHRA is proposing to licence Electronic Cigarette manufacturers in the UK. Their consultation document suggests that this will reduce the number of manufacturers by 50%.

To be precise, the MHRA document suggests:

‘…all NCPs [Nicotine Containing Products] should be classified as medicinal products and all unlicensed NCPs be removed from the market within 21 days’

It is proposed that licensing will cost around GBP5,000 – 6,000 a year, with similar annual costs for inspection and registration, resulting in approxiamtely 12 manufacturers remaining, who will have complied with the required regulations.

Now our first reaction is that this a good thing because it will:

  • put in place quality control
  • legitimise the industry
  • remove cowboys
  • ensure consistency
  • save lives, as suggested in the final paragraph
    ‘If additional people use smoke-free licensed NRT products there is more chance of a successful quit attempt…..’

However, Kate from the Vaper’s Forum has also raised some concerns which we’ll also mention later.

Quality Concerns

One of the concerns with the electronic cigarette is quality.

It’s not a concern we have about the NJOY, which has just been proven toxin free by the testing lab Analyze and which is manufactured under strict supervision.

However, we are concerned about cheap alternatives. As Jim Palasota of NJOY told us, many companies are not concerned about quality, they are only concerned about buying the cheapest e-cigarette so that they can be the cheapest on the market. As these companies are often under funded, they do not have the means to have independent lab tests carried out or inspect the factories in China.

Jim is not the only one to have concerns about the quality of the products. When we interviewed Professor Carl Phillips, his only real concern over the electronic cigarette was the possibility of contamination:


We also think the move will remove some of the cowboys.

We’ve posted before about electronic cigarette scams.

These involve selling ‘free’ electronic cigarettes and then charging a fortune for refills sent monthly, and refusing to cancel such standing orders.

These companies give the whole industry a bad name. They may also potentially stop smokers who would have switched to an electronic cigarette.

Legitimising the Industry

A third benefit is that an official licensing scheme would legitimise the industry.

Licensing would give more consumers more confidence in a new product, and a product which has been much maligned by American anti-smoking propaganda.


Not everyone is happy with the move.

Here is a movie which Kate from the Vapers Forum sent me. (The video is excellent, btw, well worth watching whether or not you agree with it!)

As I understand it, Kate is concerned about the electronic cigarette only being licensed for use as a pharmaceutical aid.

Many e-smokers are using vaping as an alternative to smoking, and this should be their right.

If they want to enjoy nicotine safely, why shouldn’t they?

And indeed at the Ashtray blog, we also like to say, if smokers want to enjoy nicotine dangerously, it’s their decision, not the government’s!

(Smoking doesn’t cost the country! Despite the propoganda, cigarettes raises more taxes than the government spends on smoking diseases, and saves a fortune in pensions costs. We are not saying it is a good thing, only that it is a responsible adult’s legitimate choice. Oh, and the largest passive smoking study ever conducted found no evidence that passive smoking causes lung cancer.)

So, pluses and minuses here.

What’s your opinion?

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23 thoughts on “UK Regulation of Electronic Cigarette: Good or Bad?”

  1. The MHRA have no business claiming that nicotine is a medicine.

    I want recreational nicotine that's safe and regulated to consumer standards, not therapeutic (ineffective as a smoking alternative) ones.

    It's hard to believe that any of the current ecig traders will qualify to dispense medicines even if they can get a product approved.

  2. How can the MHRA even consider licensing Cecorettes or any other ecigarette,when Federal Judge Leon ruled in Federal court that ecigarettes are not drug delivery devices and are classified as tobacco smoking devices.Judge Leon overuled the FDA from blocking imports of ecigarettes into the USA on Jan 14 2010 in the Columbia District Court of Washington DC.
    Do the MHRA even realise that nearly all ecigarettes come out of the same factories in China,branded in different company names.Additionally to charge manufacturers between 5 and 6000 pounds is an absolute outrage and will only benefit the MHRA's bank account,it wont make any difference to the quality of products already being sold on the market.

  3. tony Vandeputte

    Here we go again,Another stupid idea to create more controversy over Ecigs.Cecorettes International are working to get all Governments to accept electronic cigarettes like cecorettes to be used as a real alternative to regular smoking.These products are much safer than the real thing and only look like a cigarette.We are currently producing some samples resembling carrots to make our point.Will people complain if someone is smoking a carrot?I dont think so.What looks like…. is not always what it appears to be,same thing about ecigs..they may look like a cigarette but that is it.They do not burn,they do not drop ash and they are NOT cigarettes.MHRA get real,and find something else to tax.

  4. This could be good or it could be bad, as the post says. It all depends on what is decided following the consultation – and that is partly up to all of us e-smokers to put our case forward!

    @Anonymous – there is an enormous difference in quality between the different ecigarette brands – how many manufacturers are brave enough to offer a 1 year warranty?!

    Many ecigarettes are produced with little or no product inspection or quality controls and simply with the aim of being the cheapest. This is what the licensing regime would change for the better, and if costs are incurred in checking every product and manufacturer, then it is only fair that the industry/e-smokers pay for these (as long as they are proportionate to the benefits gained).

    The problem will be if sales are restricted so we can only buy refills over the counter at a pharmacy, or even worse have to get a prescription! Then costs will rise dramatically!

    Personally, for now, I'll stick to a brand I know and trust – the NJOY.

  5. The MHRA and the UK government needs to read the Federal court ruling on ecigarettes 14 January 2010,where Judge Leon ruled that the FDA had no right to block imports of electronic cecorettes and otherecigs.He also stated that the FDA case was another example of the FDA´s aggressive efforts to regulate recreational tobacco products as drugs or devices.
    Electronic cigarettes are NOT medical devices,therefore the MHRA have no legal right to interfere.

  6. Does anyone else realize that this is all corportate propaganda?

    All things "e" are banned in Canada because they are BS… and I encourage people to do their COMPLETE research before thinking that the e-cig is the way to go. Just talk to a tobacco reduction councilor and you'll kick the habit… and not have to use junk like this.

  7. Great video from Kate, and I think between that and your post you have covered most of the relevant concerns however if I may add just a couple of other comments.

    1. Though regulation is not a bad thing, it appears as though it is being used as a means to restrict this product rather than control it. And quite frankly, when you have such a promising alternative (as even ASH-UK believe) I would rather see an unregulated market than none at all since the most likely negative is a shoddy rather than a dangerous product.

    2. Up to this point, Britain seemed as though of a bit of a bright light in this area with Canada banning altogether, and America attempting to do so but no longer. If you want people to use an alternative you make it at least as easy to get as cigarettes. This sounds as though going out to buy the more dangerous cigarettes will be much more practical than to try to hunt down ecigs (and that goes for supplying or selling them as well).

    A sad day indeed….let's hope some sensible heads prevail.

  8. This was always going to happen eventually. I wouldn't put the odds of e-cigarettes being approved once they've been taken off the market as any better than 50:50.

    It will take a mangling of the facts to justify a ban but that's all in a day's work for these people. The forces lined up against e-cigarettes are powerful and support in government for e-cigs is nil. Politicians don't care about harm reduction. Like the activists they see no shades of grey.

    I've also blogged on this:

  9. I'm Dave Atherton from a smoker's right's group. You guys seem well ahead of me but have you seen this safety review of an Ecigarette?

    Findings. Ruyan® e-cigarette is designed to be a safe alternative to smoking. The various test results confirm this is the case. It is very safe relative to cigarettes, and also safe in absolute terms on all measurements we have applied. Using micro-electronics it vaporizes, separately for each puff, very small quantities of nicotine dissolved in propylene glycol, two small well-known molecules with excellent safety profiles, – into a fine aerosol. Each puff contains one third to one half the nicotine in a tobacco cigarette’s puff. The cartridge liquid is tobacco-free and no combustion occurs.

    Competency. The author has authored or co-authored over 30 research papers and reports in national and international scientific medical journals since 1995, on smoking, and latterly on testing of cigarettes and cigarette substitutes.

    Dr) Murray Laugesen

    Lyttelton, Christchurch, 8082,

  10. Funny Enough,Most tobacco reduction councilors find ecigs to be highly effective in reducing ones tobacco addiction,You have only got to look at the results of the clinical trials in South Africa,that found up to an 80% success rate using ecigs,compared to 18% using nicotine patches and nicotine gum.
    Obviously our Canadian friend is a tobacco or pharmaceutical shareholder,and probably a reformed smoker that will moan about any new smoking product

  11. After Ecigs at 80% the next best method is the Allen Carr's tools with a peer reviewed 53% success rate. After you have read it promise me not to snigger at ASH's expense.

    "27th November 2007

    Today Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the public health charity has apologised to Allen Carr’s Easyway Organisation for unfounded comments made by its Director in November 2006.

    In November of last year, Deborah Arnott, Director of ASH claimed that specific success rates quoted by Allen Carr Easyway were “plucked out of the air” and “basically made up.” She made these comments whilst on the BBC Radio 4 “PM” programme during a piece concerning the death of Allen Carr, founder of Allen Carr’s Easyway organisation.
    Deborah Arnott’s comments referred to two independent studies conducted by eminent experts in the field of smoking cessation which had already been published in peer reviewed journals indicating a 53% success rate for Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking Clinics after 12 months.

    Following a complaint by Allen Carr’s Easyway International, Deborah Arnott and ASH now acknowledge that it was wrong for Ms Arnott to have made the comments relating to the 53% success rate and have issued an unreserved apology.

    ASH has agreed to pay the legal costs incurred by Allen Carr’s Easyway.


  12. More ASH dirt. In the UK about 75% of ASH's funding indirectly comes from pharmaceutical companies. Did you know that ASH and pharmaceutical companies work together on projects and own or have owned shares in pharmaceutical companies? Take a look at this.

    "ASH has worked closely with both Glaxo and SmithKline Beecham staff and always welcomed the active collaboration. I hope to continue this with the merged company. We have worked with GSK under the auspices of the WHO-Europe Partnership Project on tobacco dependence and at various one-off opportunities. ASH was instrumental in securing greater government commitment to smoking cessation products in the NHS National Plan and we have helped with PR for both Zyban and Niquitin CQ. Our involvement with GSK staff has, I believe, been mutually beneficial, and we have gained from exposure to the company's arguments and insights. I have always admired the commitment and professionalism of the GSK staff involved…"

    "ASH has a small shareholding in GSK and I will be attending with others to question you and the Chairman on this situation."

  13. Although I wil argue that at least where tobacco harm reduction is concerned ASH UK have behaved better than ASH US. They have actually come out and said that the electronic cigarette is certainly less harmful than cigarettes, and have avoided making direct calls to ban it.

  14. Hello! Do you have some news you want to contribute to and that you think our readers might also find interesting? We are planning to open our blog in a few weeks and I have already bookmarked some of your posts. Best wishes, Peter

  15. So now it the pharmaceutical turn to manipulate the media and governments and the general public….. So they are next in line….. Who do you think will be next?
    Funny that the MHRA is funded by the pharmaceutical Industry….. ???
    They want control over the electric cigarette…. But NOT the Traditional Cigarette, or the tomato or Chocolate…. Results have been outstanding and one day will reduce the fatalities due to smoking more so than any other product. many companies have spent years marketing this product and helped millions of people quit the habit., and now after many years due to the success and growing popularity they face closure, why because the big boys have decided we want control. I am not adverse to regulation. But it seems the arguments are laughable and the obvious reason behind it is control and money.
    My Wife wants me to say……..
    The Electronic Cigarette is nothing short of a miracle, Now the Vultures from above are swopping down and stealthy manipulating the media and governments into giving them control…… What a Joke!

  16. The Electronic Cigarette is nothing short of a miracle, one the most life altering products to be produced in recent years, it will save millions of lives and change the way people smoke in years to come, and from what i hear the MHRA have allocated a two hour slot to discuss the topic. It has also been said the meeting has been adjourned by one day, therefore messing up all travel plans for many doctors and scientists and others. What is going one ? What i find amazing is that whilst the traditional cigarette a product that is known to include rat poison, ammonia, formalahide, toilet cleaner, Arsenic, Methane, Carbon Monoxide, pesticide and NICOTINE is allowed to stay on the shelves,
    The Electric Cigarette has been put under such scrutiny all because of the mis information that has spread like wildfire over recent months. However after many heated discussions and various reports from esteemed doctors and scientists, it seems as each day passes more and more people / big wigs are acknowledging the electric cigarette is here to stay and the difference it can make to so many worldwide.

    Now we what we have is the battle for control, In the states the FDA got thrown out of court. What will happen with their UK counterpart ?

    The MHRA as it stands says there are three choices.

    1. Regulate it as a medicine now
    2. Regulate it as a medicine later
    3. Do nothing – They must have had to fill in a third box and couldn’t come up with anything !”!

    So It seems now that there is only one discussion / choice they are considering “regulate is as a medicine”

    What is happening now is the MHRA have now commanded the power to decide (OVER A TWO HOUR PERIOD) who will get control over the regulation and distribution of the Electric Cigarette.

    We all know 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:

    This would make a great theme for Film. The Firm II ( Maybe )

    Michael – A very concerned retailer

  17. I have been buying e-cigs for the past 2 years direct from China. I have had no urge to smoke during this time and have no worries about the quality of the e-cig, they come with a 12 month warranty and I have returned parts and had them replaced free of charge.
    Typical of the UK government to want to nurse maid us because we are too stupid to look after ourselves! nobody is entitled to have an opinion on the safety of e-cigs except those that use them people at ASH are meant to be anti smoking so what has a non smoking device got to do with them? are they going to want to regulate chewing a pen next because that is what I did to occupy my hands when I stopped smoking before?
    I have a sneaking suspicion that this may be about money? ie we have it and the government want it!

  18. Having trawled though a number of e-cig adverts I only found one that offered to supply a trial pack at a fair price and it amazes me that if the product was all they claim it would be in their interest to promote it in any way possible.
    Another thought is if a miricle cure was found for any of the more serious cancers this would make the headlines of all TV news broadcast and all other forms of media.
    the big Q, genuing product og get rich scam.

    1. The very cheapest (and especially the free trials) are generally the ones that are the scams. Read the small print carefully.

      E-Cigarettes are not a miracle cure for cancer. They don’t claim to remove cancer. What they do do is take away some of the causes of cancer. The problem with cigarettes is not the ingredients, it is the combustion. Remove the combustion and you remove much of the health risks of cancer. Which doesn’t, of course, cure already established cancers.

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