How EU Regulations Will Affect Retailers

How EU’s TPD Vape Regulations Will Affect Retailers

The EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD): What Vape Retailers and Shop Owners Need To Know

A few retailers have asked me how EU e-cig regulations will affect them.

If you’ve not heard of TPD II before, it’s refers to the Tobacco Products Directive (article 20 being the section that affects e-cigarettes). Although designed for cigarettes, e-cigarettes were included in the badly written and designed article 20.

Numerous rumours are swirling around – many of them hopelessly wrong. One week I was told menthol e-liquid is going to be banned. (It’s not, although we’ll need to watch that doesn’t happen in TPD III!)

Last week one of our resellers sent us through a comprehensive list of questions, which both spurred me into action and steered the format of this post!

We’ll keep this post updated, so feel free to send questions through (contact details here!) or leave a comment under this post.

1. Are e-cigs now medicalised?

No. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated vaping activists, the EU’s attempt to medicalise e-cigs was defeated.

While companies have the option to go for a medical license, this is not mandatory. In any case, the costs are beyond the resources of small to medium sized companies, and daunting even for larger companies, with only BAT achieving a medical e-cig so far.

2. As an e-cig retailer, will my shop need any form of Special Licence or Insurance under the TPD?

No license is or will be required to sell e-cigs, vape pens or e-liquid. However, we always recommend you have insurance, and buy from suppliers which have product liability insurance.

3. Besides product knowledge, would I or my staff need any extra training to sell e-cigs?

You do not need any additional product knowledge or training. However, you should already have a knowledge of General Products Safety Regulations (2005). Do be careful to follow age restriction guidelines. Failure to do so could lead to a ban on selling nicotine. We’d also advise a good knowledge of battery safety info.

We have put together a guide to compliance with age restrictions here, and an illustrated guide to battery safety here.

4. What is going to happen with imported liquids – can we still sell them?

It was our original understanding that E-Liquid now has to be made with EU or USA pharma grade nicotine. We haven’t seen any mention of that in UK government legislation, and are seeking clarification.

E-liquids will need to undergo testing, including emissions testing, with a submission being made 6 months before sale is allowed. This is likely to lead to a massive slow down in the rate of innovation.

As of March 2017 we are seeing a number of compliant e-liquids coming through from the USA. The TPD does mean there is likely to be continued consolidation in the e-liquid market, with larger, more established e-liquids becoming more dominant.

5. So, the new regulations stipulates 2ml Cartridge, does that then now include Refill/Rebuildable/Dripper Tanks?

Unfortunately so, at least in the UK. One government document originally appeared to suggest tanks would be excluded, however the restriction on tanks was clarified in the 2015 ECig Summit. However, we’re not sure to what extent it will affect parts for rebuildable tanks.

This isn’t universal. In France, the regulations have been interpreted as applying only to single use e-cigs and disposable cartridges. Unfortunately, the UK government sought clarification on this from the EU and was told categorically that this is not allowed.

6. As a retailer, do I need to carry out testing and submit notifications?

The onus for testing and submissions falls on the manufacturer and the importer. If you are importing the devices, you will need to conduct the tests and submit notifications – see here for details.

Do note that submissions should be made 6 months before going to market. Given the costs of both testing and notification, this is not likely to be feasible for smaller retailers, especially those carrying a wide range of stock.

If you are not importing or manufacturing, you will not have to conduct tests or notify products.

7. Will I now have pay a fee to sell e-cigs?

The MHRA charges manufacturers and importers fees to cover the costs of receiving and reviewing submissions.

The fees (per sku) are:

  • Notification Fee: £150
  • Annual Fee: £60
  • Substantial Modification Fee: £80

There may be a reduction in costs, as the MHRA has received many more applications than anticipated, potentially allowing it to employ economies of scale.

If that seems expensive, consider that in Belgium the authorities are charging £4,000 a sku.

8. What is going to happen with batteries, box mods, variable voltage and wattage devices?

Batteries and vape mods will not be affected by the legislation. However, it will be frustrating to use powerful mods with new tanks because of the constant refilling needed.

(We’ve tried sub-ohming with new, TPD compliant tanks. While the vape is excellent, it does entail frequent refilling!)

9. What about vape tanks?

All tanks will have to undergo emissions testing. Manufacturers and importers will need to submit them to the MHRA 6 months before being put on the market.

There is also a leak free refilling requirement.

Existing standards for leak free refilling are fairly simple. For example, to check if a container has leaked, you simply wipe the container and see if there is liquid on the outside.

However, E-liquids must have a 1cm long nozzle, and emit no more than 20 drops of refill liquid per minute when placed vertically have has a docking mechanism. (See Tobacco and Electronic Cigarettes Product Regulations: Part 6 for details).

10. Do rebuildable electronic cigarettes fill under the TPD/TPPR?

Originally there was some confusion over this, and the situation remains unclear. In an email forwarded to me, the MHRA recently stated that:

“Individual parts of the electronic cigarette sold separately also fall under the scope of the TPD. These only need to be notified if these are essential elements of the e-cigarette and capable of containing nicotine. This would include the tank, atomiser or cartridge but would exclude other components such as replacement batteries or mouthpieces.”

This contradicts information given to us elsewhere.

11. Why are some shops still selling larger tanks/ e-liquid bottles?

IF the tanks are over 2ml they are breaking the law. TPD II does not apply to nicotine-free e-liquid, so larger bottles such as shortfills , which do not contain nicotine, can still be sold.

12. What are the penalties for non-compliance?

Penalties include stiff fines, confiscation of products and up to 6 months in prison.

13. Do you know of any particular signage I need to display in my store from May 20th 2017?


However, you already need to comply with age restrictions guidelines, which includes a requirement to display age posters. You can find a guide to compliance here, and you can also request posters and log books by emailing [email protected]

14. How long do we have to implement the TPD?

If you have submitted notifications for existing products, you can continue to sell them until May 20th 2017.

Vaping products after May 20th 2017 will have to be compliant with the EU TPD, and have been notified 6 months prior to selling.

15. I’ve also heard only Tobacco flavours can be sold, and there will be no more “Flavours”.

Countries have the option to ban flavours other than tobacco. However, the UK has chosen not to take these options.

16. What other restrictions will there be on e-liquid under the TPD?

Glass bottles will probably no longer be feasible. E-liquid will be restricted to 10ml bottles, and 2% will be the maximum strength allowed. E-liquid must be supplied with a warning that nicotine is highly addictive, and with an information leaflet.

Ironically, the warning must also be applied to tanks which do not contain nicotine. Trading Standards has insisted on an additional line underneath the warning. This clarifies that the warning only applies when used with nicotine containing liquids.

17. How will we advertise?

Advertising will be severely restricted, although again the UK has taken a very minimalist approach to implementing the TPD.

What’s allowed:

  • online tutorials and information
  • trade shows
  • trade magazines
  • leaflets/posters
  • billboards

What’s not allowed:

  • tv/radio advertising
  • product placement
  • newspapers/periodicals/magazines
  • ‘cold’ marketing emails
  • online promotions
  • social media marketing (but tutorials, blog posts e.t.c. are allowed)

18. What other regulations are there on e-cigarette advertising?

Even when you can advertise, there are plenty of regulations on what you can and can’t do.

  • E-cigarette advertising can not make any health claims (but this rule is under review and likely to change.) As of November 2018, health claims can be made for vaping, but with some severe caveats. See UK Allows Health Claims For Vaping for details
  • E-cigarette advertising must not be associated in any way with a tobacco brand or be seen to be promoting a tobacco product or showing tobacco products in a positive light.
  • Advertising must be socially responsible.
  • Adverts must make it clear the product is an e-cigarette, not a tobacco product.
  • Adverts may not quote health professionals.
  • Adverts must state if the product contains nicotine.
  • Adverts may not encourage non-smokers/non-nicotine users to use e-cigs or be designed to appeal to people under the age of 18.
  • People who have a major role/are using an e-cigarette in an e-cig advert must not appear to be under the age of 25.

19. Can retailers still run special offers and promotions under article 20 of the TPD?

The TPD appears to be focussed on the language of marketing rather than prohibiting offers. Specifically, it states that that retailers should avoid “highlighting price promotion”, but it does not state you should not run price promotions. Information can be shared, and some retailers will argue that price drops are information.

20. Can I still advertise my shop?

Some media outlets have taken the view that the restrictions only apply to e-cigarettes – not to vape shops. However, it’s worth noting that the restrictions call for a ban on advertising that lead to direct or indirect promotion of electronic cigarettes or refill containers.

So the situation is currently confused. But it’s worth noting that in their recent consultation on e-cig advertising, CAP wrote:

“…e-cigarette businesses may, all
other factors being equal, lawfully advertise their existence in media where they cannot
lawfully advertise products.”

Source: Changes to the regulations of e-cigarette advertising.

Don’t give up!

These may seem like draconian regulations, but you can still thrive! See our post below for tips from experts…

How to Double Your Vape Shop’s Sales

Keep Your Chin Up!

The EU TPD is very poor legislation.

It was so badly conceived that the scientists quoted by the commission wrote en masse that their studies had been misinterpreted.

Fortunately, the UK government has been understanding. In fact, one government minister has promised e-cig regulation will be more ‘Italian’ than traditionally British. As a result, we have one of the most liberal interpretations of the TPD in the EU.

While the restrictions will increase costs and decrease choice, and reduce the pace of innovation, it’s NOT the end of the British e-cig industry.

More Information

We’ll update this post as:

  • information becomes clarified
  • as more questions come through

Do let us know any unanswered questions you have!

Also see:

EU Vaping Regulations: A Chance for Change?

48 thoughts on “How EU’s TPD Vape Regulations Will Affect Retailers”

        1. Hi Alex

          If you’re interested in getting your products TPD approved, your best option is to work with a company that can do the necessary testing and submissions – the submissions process itself has proved to be a bit of nightmare! I can forward your details to one if you are interested.


  1. Thank you James I am hoping that the UK’s stance does not effect e-cigarettdirect and that your lovely company and staff are also safe in employment with all the bologny from the EU

  2. Hey James,

    Brilliant post! Couple of questions for you, where you mention notification being required by both manufacturers and importers, does this still apply if you are importing from manufacturers outside of the eu who have already notified and produced TPD compliant products? Or would it just apply to importers of products which MHRA have not previously been notified of?

    Also, you mention the effect on clearomizers and liquids, do you also know what impact the regulations will have on devices, mods, vv/vw devices sold separately from tanks and atomizers?

    1. Hi Billy, currently the plan is that if a device has been submitted it can be sold by anyone in the UK. Obviously, this has raised a few hackles from those who are planning to submit the device and it is a point of contention! However, very manufacturers from China seem to be taking the TPD seriously.

      There seems to very little impact on batteries – all the focus is on (nicotine) containing e-liquid, tanks and cartomisers.

  3. I did some research into the TPD after the first draft was released. My understanding is that tank sizes and other restrictions only apply to devices being sold for vaping e liquids containing nicotine. None of the regulations cover use of current or future rdas or rtas coils etc if they are sold for use with non nicotine containing liquids. Terminology and motivation is key here.
    It is perfectly legal for me to buy and a shop to sell me cannabis seeds (if I wanted them) but not if they are purchased for growing. And the shop is legally obliged not to sell if they suspect or know they will be used for illegal purposes. Surely the same applies to tanks etc.
    Nicotine is not a controlled substance in the uk and the only restriction on sale/purchase,after tpd takes effect. I know of one uk site selling nicotine that, after a lot of explaining what standards it’s product is produced to and how pure it is, then adds a disclaimer that it is not to be used for e liquids. There are no references on the site to e cigs or eliquids anywhere else, but curiously the only other products they sell are flavour concentrates! Lol.

  4. Im confused about the regulations on variable wattage/voltage devices. There is a section in article 20 of the TPD that stipulates a “consistant dosage of nicotine” must be supplied to the user.

    The wording is vague at best but does this refer to banning VW/VV devices or to quality control?

    Ensuring these mods, and batteries, are supplying a stable supply of energy to the atomiser would be favorable but i fear they may just ban them outright and I’d appriciate your opinion on the matter.


  5. Good info thanks. One clarification, would I be ‘breaking the law’ if I bought a 30ml bottle from America?

    It’s Black note and they only sell 30 ml

  6. If vaping becomes as expensive as traditional cigarettes that will be it for me.
    I’m disabled and use a wheelchair and suffer from a mental illness that causes my anxiety to go through the roof!
    I currently vape Halo Popular Blend and mix it with Halo Menthol Blast.

    I still smoke a little about 5 a day of Berkeley Menthol. It’s bad enough they are banning Menthol cigarettes, I won’t have anything to fall back on now if I can’t get hold of my e-liquids.
    I’ve really had enough of the government’s telling us what we can do, looks like I may have to step off the planet soon because it’s just going to get worse.

  7. Hi quick question.. I use a nebox mod which has a 10ml built in tank. I was wondering when it will be no longer viable to go onto Amazon say and purchase mods such as the nebox and others with bigger tanks? When will this restriction commence? Didn’t know whether a good idea to buy a couple spare ones now in anticipation? Thanks great article!

  8. i have read that ecigs/mods must deliver a consistent doasage of nicotine ? so does this mean that variable wattage will be banned ? your blog says no but i dont know who to listen to its very confusing !!

  9. Very good article, thank you. One question, will all this ‘bull’ go out of the window now that we have decided to part company with the EU and will have the ability to decide our own Laws & Regulations?

      1. Bit of a late reply I know haha.

        Does this mean that there could be a possibility that once we have actually left the EU, that the ‘regulations’ can be somewhat reverted back to how they were a few years ago?

        I’m unsure how all this works to be honest…how could the regulations be reversed after Brexit? What would need to happen or once they come into force in May this year that’s pretty much it?

  10. Hi everyone what a brilliant blog. I have a question will cross boarder non EU counteries still be-able to sell to UK custerms via their website online?

    If so, how will TPD regulations apply to them and if they dont comply how will they be monitored?

    I ask this cause consumer’s always look for alternatives and if decide to buy vapes from non UK seller then I want to know could they?

    Could TPD block overseas companies websites or send them notice that they are commiting a criminal offence by selling from china or where ever ?

    Or would TPD prosecute the customer for buying the eliq from overseas site?

    Do you all get me guys? Please share me your views

    1. Thanks, Rita.

      In theory cross border sales will still exist. In practice, the requirement that you have to register in every EU country you want to sell in and meet different interpretations of the regulations means that only the biggest countries will be able to.

      I think it is extremely unlikely that any vapers will be prosecuted for personal importation, at least in the UK – the regulations are targeted at the supply side.

  11. does these new rules mean you won’t be able to promote products or shops on facebook and twitter via posting content, or just the advertising in paid ads of these products is banned?

    we are a social marketing agency so interested to know the rules on this!

  12. Hi, Really want to know: As a customer in the UK, will I still be able to buy large tanks online, from overseas, and have them shipped to me? I DO NOT want to be restricted to little tanks. Thanks in advance. S.

  13. I live in Belgium and we were hit in January by TBD and I have been unable to find a flavour here that I like since. I’ve been buying from the UK now for the past couple of months and now this option looks like it will be closed to me. If I buy 30ml bottles from a U.S site, will that be possible or will customs sieze my package?

    1. Unfortunately the TPD makes it extremely difficult to have cross border sales in the UK. I think you will still be able to buy e-liquids from the USA for now, but the FDA moves to regulate the e-cig industry may make that impossible in the future.

  14. Would i be right in saying any mod can be tpd with no tank , and if i put a tank on a mod has to be 2ml or less

  15. Hi. Excellent article. Do you think that if I was selling premade coils that they would need to be tested by TPD. I wouldnt want to pay the £200 or so per coil i wanted to sell when they cost pennies to make.

    1. Hi Eugene

      That’s a really interesting question, and I think it’s an ambiguous area.

      Some people think that because no warnings are required for coils they are outside the scope of the TPD. On the other hand, tanks need to undergo emissions testing (and that’s essentially the atomiser, which includes the coil.)

      I’d have thought not, but I am not 100% sure. I can try to find out, though!


  16. joseph whetton

    I have heard that some retailers will be giving non TPD liquids and tanks away and maybe upping the price of TPD compliant kits to compensate. Is this allowed ?

  17. Hithere,

    A couple of questions regarding the new regulations.

    Loyalty schemes – I understand you cannot offer loyalty points on nicotine containing products, is this true? If so, can we still offer them on hardware and accessories (Mods, tanks, coils etc)?

    Social media posting – Are we able to post pictures and text about our products we have in store if we arent advertising price?

    Multi buys – I understand you cant offer 2 for 1 like promotions, however ive heard a lot about retailers offering 3 x 10ml bottles (pick and mix) at a lower total price. is this allowed?

    Thanks in advance for your time


    1. Hey Josh

      I haven’t seen anything in the text of the legislation that covers loyalty schemes (but it’s possibly I have missed something!)

      We’re allowed social media postings but these are not supposed to use promotional language.

      I’ll try and find clarification on multi-buy offers…


  18. Hi, I’ve ordered 4 60ml Eunice bottles from USA on 19th may to be shipped to U.K. It’s in transit ATM in USA. Will this still be delivered or stopped at customs for not being TPD compliant?

  19. Hi James, Can non-TPD complaint juice still be bought in the UK from abroad? Will there be any issues at customs if normal consumer orders it?

  20. Hi James,
    I have a question regarding the sale of coils..Do retailers now have to sell them in the full pack or can they still be sold individually?
    I was told this when buying replacement coils and wondered if it was a gimmick to get a bigger sale or is now a regulation.

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