The sale of e-cigarettes has risen dramatically from £2.5 million in 2011 to £23.9m in 2013. As sales have gone up so too have calls for regulation. The UK government along with many others have called for a medicalization approach by which E Cigarettes and E Liquid would be treated and regulated like any other medicine. If this were to be enforced, nicotine levels would be controlled, flavours would be restricted and the products would only be available from a pharmacy or on prescription. Trading E Cigarettes and related products would require an expensive medical license that would damage the industry as it stands today beyond repair. For the consumer it would mean expensive products and limited availability. The E Cigarette would be pushed underground at the compromise of quality and safety,something we’re firmly against.
Fortunately for now, it looks like the medicalization approach has been rejected. After much debate, on the 8th October in Strasbourg, the European Parliament voted on a raft of measures to regulate tobacco and nicotine products. MEPs rejected the approach of regulating e-cigarettes as medicines by a majority of 64… 362 against to 298 for. But, for now unfortunately a medicalization approach has not been defeated and this vote does not mean there will be no regulation at all, far from it.
The European Parliament voted in favour of a mixture of restrictions that draw on traditional tobacco regulation. A few possible outcomes are a ban on advertising for E Cigarettes, nicotine amounts restricted to a maximum of 30mg and the restriction of certain additives. We, along with the majority of the industry believe that Tobacco regulations do not apply to the E Cigarette and cannot be transferred for use with a product that is so different to cigarettes. This kind of haphazard regulation could force the industry into a costly, bureaucratic mess. E liquid might have to contain excessively large warning labels (out of proportion to risk), the improvement of E Cigarette technology maybe slowed down as some models don’t comply with the rules. The bottom line is: less people make the switch from smoke to vapour.
We at Mist strongly believe that the best way forward for the regulation of E Cigarettes is purpose-built regulation for nicotine containing products. We want to see MEP’s pushing for regulation that sets standards for e-cigarette performance and safety (originally proposed in 2010), we want definitions for accountability and responsibility, schedules for prohibited ingredients etc. We want to ensure that all E liquid is of the highest quality. Most of all we want to see the UK government drop its proposals to regulate E Cigarettes as a medicine.