The revised European Tobacco Products Directives (TPD) comes into force across the European Union today, subjecting vape products to regulation at the European level for the first time.
What impact will the TPD have on vapers and the independent vape industry?
Promote disharmony and restrict free trade
Rather than promoting harmonisation as proponents of the TPD said it would, the TPD has enshrined in law 28 different regulatory regimes across the EU. Currently few national bodies have confirmed the extent and detail of their respective national transpositions. This means immediately that UK companies cannot comply with TPD requirements for national reporting as these regimes do not exist, thus preventing legitimate cross border sales, for those countries that will continue to allow such trade. This free trade embargo is further enforced with needless bureaucratic national reporting fees, charged by every EU nation for the same products set.
Restrict innovation and reduce product range
Notification costs are just the tip of the iceberg. The testing required to produce the necessary data for the notifications can run to tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds depending on a company’s product range. This will result in companies reducing the number of products they manufacture or import. It will also lead to a decline in innovation as companies seek to bring fewer vaping devices to market.
Make it harder for some smokers to switch to vaping and send some vapers back to smoking
There is a never a situation when it is better to smoke than it is to vape. Two recently published reports (Public Health England and The Royal College of Physicians) have made it clear - vaping is at least 95 per cent less harmful than smoking. However, the TPD subjects vaping products to more severe regulation than some tobacco products. This will only make it harder for smokers to switch to vaping and sends out a mixed message about the relative harm of vaping compared to smoking.
The TPD also introduces an unjustified 20mg/ml nicotine strength limit. This will certainly make it harder for heavy smokers to switch successfully and for the 250,000 vapers who rely on a higher strength nicotine e-liquid, it could very well send them back to smoking.
In addition, by banning most forms of advertising and sponsorship, how are smokers supposed to find out about the benefits of vaping and the availability of suitable products?
Force some businesses to close
The independent industry has made vaping in the UK. Many of the companies operating in the independent sector are small and produce a limited range of products. It is very unlikely that these companies will be able to meet the compliance costs imposed by the TPD. These good businesses will either have to change their business model and risk their basic business continuity or close.
Lead to a rise in the informal economy
Legitimate companies will comply with the TPD, whether it is valid and sensible or not. However, some companies will choose to undercut these legitimate companies by operating in the informal economy. Many vapers will feel placed in the position of having to choose between buying illegal products (nicotine e-liquid over 20 mg/ml for example) or returning to smoking.
The informal economy will only be controlled if the TPD is rigorously enforced. IBVTA does not support the TPD, but for the sake of our members we expect and will demand it to be policed by the relevant bodies.
Fraser Cropper, Chairman of the Independent British Vape Trade Association said:
“Today marks the end of a process that began in 2012. In that time, the amount of positive independent data that has been produced in support of vaping has been significant, yet none of it has had any impact on the TPD’s content or intent.
The UK has a real opportunity to become a world leader by embracing vaping and its life changing products, not just in terms of job creation and exports, but more importantly in enabling the significant public health gain through an enlightened approach to regulation. It is heartening that the MHRA and the Department of Health, have implemented this directive as best they could, given its tangled impracticable remit and have engaged constructively with all responsible stakeholders.
Vaping is not smoking, the products our members make, sell or import are not tobacco products. It is time our politicians realised this, introduced proportionate regulation and allowed vaping to achieve its true potential in helping the UK’s 10 million smokers switch to a significantly less harmful alternative.”
Nigel Quine, Chairman of the Independent British Vape Trade Association's Science and Regulatory Committee added:
“The TPD Article 20, is poorly constructed regulation, a point admitted by some involved in the drafting process, and it is not based on any credible research or scientific data. We also believe that it does not consider the harm reduction potential of this product, by associating it with traditional tobacco products.
In recent months we have seen, not only in the UK, but across the EU, just how hard it has been for Member State authorities and the European Commission to transpose this directive. The perfect example of this is that, even today, we do not know the full extent and detail of the transpositions in all 28 Member States.”
Ian Green, Chairman of the Independent British Vape Trade Association’s Vendor Committee concluded:
“There are roughly 1,500 vape shops in the UK, the TPD will have forced the owners of many of these businesses to change their established business models, moving away from direct importation to buying from within the UK.
Our vendor members are on the front line. It is these members working directly with established vapers and smokers that have played a significant role in helping nearly 3 million smokers switch to vaping.”