In the run up to new vaping regulations, the infamous Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive, many vapers and vape businesses were in panic mode.
The regulations was the result of a messy compromise between those who wanted an effective ban on vaping and those who were determined to protect smoker’s right to safer alternative.
Retailers were particularly worried about the impact of testing regulations and warning labels, while vapers were infuriated at limitations on nicotine strengths, tank sizes and more.
We’ve been helped in the UK by a very sensible interpretation of the new rules. However, the TPD continues to raise the ire of vapers and vape organisations. So much so that a group of 9 individuals have submitted a new European Citizen’s Initiative to “repeal Article 20 of Directive 2014/40/EU and create bespoke legislation which clearly sets vaping products apart from tobacco & pharmaceutical products”.
We caught up with Dustin Dahlmann to find out what the campaign aims to achieve.
Q. The EU TPD has been in effect for nearly two years. What impact do you think article 20 of the TPD has had on vaping?
A. Article 20 of Directive 2014/40/EU has been proven wrong. It thwarts vaping innovation and bars smoker’s access to clear information on less harmful tobacco-free alternatives. We demand from the EU Commission a new legislation draft that regulates vaping products independently and evidence-based and does not stigmatise vaping products as related to tobacco: Foster innovation instead of blocking it! Allow responsible marketing practices; ensure youth protection!
Q. How do you feel the TPD is currently stifling innovation?
A. For example: Under the European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD2), e-cigarettes must be registered six months before being sold in the EU. The goal is to keep products away from the market, that do not meet European standards. Practice shows, however, more and more the opposite: Importers – especially from China – circumvent the regulation and thus secure a significant marketing advantage for themselves. For domestic traders in the EU, who dutifully comply with the standstill period, this means a competitive disadvantage. It is a risk for them to spend more money in new and innovative technology, if they are not allowed to sell these products immediately.
Q. Are there any positive elements to TPD article 20 which you would like to see retained?
A. As vapour products do not contain tobacco, they should be excluded from all existing and future tobacco legislation. We support high standards for manufacturing and product safety for e-vapour products. The campaign supports regulation to prevent youth access to vaping products and to prevent targeting young people for marketing purposes.
Q. Why have you decided to submit this initiative, and why now?
A. The European Citizens‘ Initiative (ECI) “let’s demand smarter vaping regulation” was born out of the committee’s shared desire to promote evidence-based European policies for vaping products. Legislation currently in force fails to distinguish vaping products from tobacco products even though vaping products contain NO tobacco. The campaign, its organisers and the European vapours who join us in signing the petition will work to end the current status quo and advocate for more adequate legislation.
Q. What are the main areas of legislation you are seeking to change and why?
A. E-vapour products contain no tobacco. Current EU rules equating vaping with smoking are counter-productive and should be changed. The ECI “let’s demand smarter vaping regulation” is a means of making vapers’ voices heard in Brussels and fighting for smarter regulation of e-vapour products. The petition calls upon the European Commission to remove vaping products from the Tobacco Products Directive and create a standalone, proportionate and evidence-based regulatory environment that:
- Allows smokers to have access to accurate and credible information about the relative safety of vaping versus smoking;
- Helps smokers access vaping products that can effectively help them transition out of tobacco;
- Allows flavoured vaping liquids;
- Prevents access by young people to vaping products;
- Ensures that marketing for vaping products does not target young people or non-smokers;
- Reduces risks for consumers of vaping products by introducing robust manufacturing and product safety standards.
Q. It’s great to see that your initiative has been accepted for consideration. How do you rate your chances of success – and have you seen any political support for it so far?
A. The Commission has already confirmed the approval of the Initiative and it has already received some media coverage but it is not yet publicly accessible. The Initiative will start at mid-March. The ECI “let’s demand smarter vaping regulation” is considered a success when it reaches its target 1 million signatures and thereby triggers related action from the European Commission. Just as important, however, the Initiative will be considered a success if it raises awareness about the current problems of unfair tobacco legislation, enables vapours to engage with their local representatives and helps concerned citizens voice their opinions on a topic that could impact their daily lives.
Q. If successful, what do you think the impact will be?
A. With this petition we call on all vapers, and anyone who believes vaping can help smokers transition to alternative products with lower health risks, to support smarter rules for vaping. Our aim is to raise awareness of the important distinction between vaping products and tobacco.
Q. In recent years, UK public health groups and the government have become a strong voice for vaping. Indeed, if it had not been for UK MEPs, we could well have seen an effective ban on vaping rather than the current regulations we have. If Brexit goes ahead, how do you think this will impact the future of e-cigarettes in the EU?
A. It is important that the legislator in Brussels takes all scientific results into account, regardless to the origin of the facts. The scientific community in the UK will continue to be an important supplier of facts in future.
Q. I noticed that you have received funding from Imperial Brands. What’s your response to those who would accuse you of being a conduit for Big Tobacco, and helping tobacco companies to achieve their aims?
A. The campaign is organised and coordinated by the committee and its members even though Imperial Brands paid for the campaign website. The committee members are the only ones who take official responsibility and make executive decisions for the campaign. Imperial Brands exerts no control over the campaign during its operation.
Q. Finally, how can UK vapers support your initiative?
A. A lot will be depending on the kind of Brexit and if there will be an extension on the Brexit deadline. All EU citizens (nationals of a Member State), who are old enough to vote in the European Parliament elections (18 years of age everywhere except in Austria, where the voting age is 16) can sign the Initiative. Each person signing up will have to provide identity details (ID card, passport) so that Member State authorities can verify their ID.
A massive thank you to Dustin Dahlmann for taking the time to answer our questions. The website for the campaign is under construction, and we’ll update this post with the address when live.