Image of the UK going up in smoke.

Brexit: What Does It Mean for Vapers?

Brexit has arrived. And vapers may have had something to do with it.

After all, there are 2,500,000 vapers. And when we surveyed more than 1000 of them, 89% of them said their vote would be influenced by the regulations the EU had introduced on electronic cigarettes, while 77% were concerned about EU plans to introduce taxes on e-cigs.

In total, vapers were 18% more likely to vote to leave, and 9% more likely to be undecided.

Click here for the full results.

What next for vaping?

So many vapers will be celebrating.

After all, vapers have been battling the EU for years. And whether Brexit turns out to be a good thing or not, the arrogance, corruption and inability to listen demonstrated in the process has to be a contributory factor to us leaving.

(The UK didn’t help either, as UK government minister Anna Soubry accidentally voted to ban e-cigs – see the video of her astonishing admission here.)

But don’t forget that, for now at least, we are still part of the EU and that e-cig regulations are still in place.

Disengaging from the EU – and deciding which laws to keep and which to get rid of – is a herculean task which could take years.

Barnaby Page from E-Cig Intelligence thinks it is unlikely that Brexit would have an immediate impact:

Sure, it’s conceivable the UK will leave the EU altogether and then decide to repeal the TPD-based regulations, but I certainly wouldn’t pin any hopes on it as it requires a whole series of “ifs” coming to fruition!
It’s also been pointed out, and I think we may have mentioned it in one of our pieces, that revision of the TPD itself could quite possibly come sooner than any UK Brexit-based regulatory reform anyway.

Perhaps the best hope, for the time being, is to hope the UK government lives up to its promise to implement the TPD in a more relaxed style than it usually does – or, in a Minister’s words, that:

“…that enforcement will be more Italian than traditionally British.”

Fortunately, UK attitudes have changed a lot since the government nearly banned e-cigs in 2010, and we have an establishment which is largely sympathetic to vapers.

However, even if the TPD is amended or removed, we should expect (and need) some regulations. Vaping groups will need to lobby to ensure that these regulations are sensible and strike the right balance between maintaining safety and allowing innovation.

In the meantime, though, vapers have a lot of work to do.

I spoke to Ian Gregory from the 100K campaign, who told us that he saw the e-cig issue as a ‘molehill in a clash of mountains’ – and that to be make progress we will need to be a ‘very irritating molehill’.

He believes that lobbying our MPs will be vital to progress. A key moment in framing the debate could be the upcoming debate on e-cigs in the House of Lords on July, and Ian has suggested this as a great time to lobby your MP in the House of Commons before watching the debate from the Visitor’s gallery. Barnaby, on the other hand, pointed out that we already have the lightest touch regulation in Europe, and the vape industry might not want to make waves.

Another good move would be to support vaping advoacy groups such as the New Nicotine Alliance.

Taxes on E-Cigs

Another area of concern is taxes on electronic cigarettes.

The EU had been planning to introduce these in 2017.

The UK treasury may be keen on the idea to make up for the millions it is losing in tobacco excises. But if we have officially left before the tax comes into forces, it’s going to be harder for an establishment which has publicly recognised the value of e-cigs to push a tax through.

Are We Leaving EU Vapers in the Lurch?

There’s one issue raised by E-Cig Intelligence which many vapers may not have considered yet.

And that’s the effect on our vaper friends in Europe, especially when TPD III approaches.

The UK probably has one of the most progressive attitudes towards vaping in the world. In fact, politicians in Westminster will tell you that one of the few areas Corbyn and Cameron agree is that electronic cigarettes are a better alternative to cigarettes.

The EU commission, in contrast, sought an effective ban on e-cigarettes. They encountered stiff opposition from UK MEPs, which lead to the compromise we currently have. Even then, more UK MEPs voted against the TPD than voted for it:

Graph showing how MEPs from different parties voted for the EU Tobacco Products Directive.

Natalie Dunnand from France based Vaping Post agrees:

I fear that UK will stuck to TPD and will have a weaken voice to influence it (maybe Scottish or Srish MEPs can have some influence though ?). So I’m afraid that the Brexit weakens our fight at EU level without freeing UK from TPD for a few years.

Natalie hoped this would be countered by changing attitudes in Europe…

Some countries in the EU are changing their attitudes toward ecigs and are becoming more progressive like France and Italy (I think), Vapers organisations should work more on European issues and not rely on UK’s Vapers and MEP. Hopefully GFN saw a new cooperation…
She also noted that the EU is not the only battle field.
This fight has multiple aspects and UK will be a very important voice at COP7, which could lead to a far worse situation than the TPD does.

Many UK e-cig activists have worked closely with vapers in the EU. Let’s hope that our exit won’t weaken their fight for vaper’s rights.

What Brexit Means for Vaping Vendors

From a business perspective, though, we could be in for a tough time.

Although the majority of e-cigarette hardware is made in China, purchases are made in dollars.

Some pundits have estimated that the dollar could go to 1.05 to the pound.

To put that in perspective, when we started retailing e-cigs we were buying dollars at around 1.90 to the pound.

If the pound does plunge, e-cigarette companies will be faced with the hard choice of either raising prices in a competitive environment or swallowing the pain.

UK manufactured e-liquid could also be affected (the ingredients have to come from somewhere!)

Retailers could also find themselves dealing with a recession at the same time as increased expenditure. While vapers are not likely to stop vaping because of a recession, we could see changes in patterns of spending, with vapers opting for budget e-liquid over premium e-liquid and steering away from the higher priced mods.

E-Cig Intelligence’s analysis has lead them to a more relaxed view at least in the short term.

… we think it will have no immediate effect on vapers and a fairly slight negative effect on business. The exchange rates will have a short term effect, and there is some worry over exporting to Europe.

In the longer term – there are just too many possible outcomes of the broader Brexit situation to have any idea how it might pan out for vapers or the industry.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting few months.

How do you think Brexit will affect vapers? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Brexit: What Does It Mean for Vapers?”

  1. The Brexit also had a negative impact on the Euro/USD exchange rate, so vapor shops in places like Germany are seeing their margins shrink as well. For the liquids it should be possible to source more within the UK or within the EU to offset the currency devaluation but we’re still stuck with purchasing the hardware in USD from China. The GBP plunge in the last week would have easily cost retailers and wholesalers in the UK ~10% (absolute) of their margin.

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