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New rules on e-cigarettes and e-liquids

e-cigarette vapour[C]umbria Trading Standards are advising businesses who manufacture or sell e-cigarettes and e-liquids to be aware of new EU laws which come into force on Saturday 20 May.  The use of e-cigarettes and e-liquids is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, with Vaping becoming recognised as a “safer” alternative to smoking.  Specialist “Vaping Bars” are opening across Cumbria and a wide range of e- liquids are being offered for sale in many other retail outlets.

The new requirements include:

  • Minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers (otherwise known as e-liquids)
  • Health information will be provided to consumers so that they can make informed choices
  • Items only to be sold in an environment that protects children from starting to use these products.

The new requirements also:

  • Restrict e-cigarette tanks to a capacity of no more than 2ml
  • Restrict the maximum volume of e-liquid for sale in one refill container to 10ml
  • Restrict e-liquids to a nicotine strength of no more than 20mg/ml
  • Require nicotine-containing products or their packaging to be child-resistant and tamper evident
  • Ban certain ingredients including colourings, caffeine and taurine
  • Include new labelling requirements and warnings
  • Require all e-cigarettes and e-liquids be notified to MHRA before they can be sold

Trading Standards Officers will be carrying out visits to premises across the county to advise, and to ensure they are following the new regulations.

These changes to the law apply to anyone who makes or sells e-cigarettes and e-liquids, including those who sell online via social media, auction sites or from their own website.

Anyone who does not comply could face imprisonment of up to two years and / or an unlimited fine.

Detailed guidance for sellers can be found at www.gov.uk/guidance/e-cigarettes-regulations-for-consumer-products

Consumers and healthcare professionals can report side effects and safety concerns with e-cigarettes or refill containers to the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) through the Yellow Card reporting system.

Cumbria Trading Standards manager John Greenbank said: “It is important that local businesses are aware of their responsibilities under the new legislation. We are committed to working with Cumbrian businesses to help them understand the new rules regarding e-cigarettes and e-liquids, and ensure they comply.”

Colin Cox, Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health said: “There is now strong evidence that vaping and e-cigarettes are considerably less harmful than smoking tobacco and that there is a strong case to be made for encouraging smokers who can’t or don’t want to quit to make the switch to vaping instead.

“The key messages I want to promote are if you don’t smoke, don’t start vaping; if you do smoke, stop altogether if you can – and our pharmacies can help; and if you can’t stop, or don’t want to – switch to vaping.

“Cumbria’s smoking rate is dropping and latest figures show that less than 16% of the adult population continue to smoke. However this still represents about 60,000 adult smokers across the county, so there’s a lot more to be done to help get the numbers down further.”

Dan Marchant of UK vaping retailer Vape Club

Effects on the vaping industry

Overall the introduction of the regulations is a very positive step.  Having strict regulations regarding the manufacture of products, emissions testing and so on, means that the quality of products on the market can be trusted and smokers looking to make the switch can be assured that the devices and the e-liquids they use are fit for purpose, and as safe as possible.

However, the regulations are not perfect and limitations on nicotine strength, bottle size and tank capacity have already changed the landscape significantly.  Costs have increased a little but we believe these will fall back in line very quickly.  Convenience has been restricted slightly but not enough to turn people away.  The bottom line is that the vaping community will move past these barriers and continue to use a product which PHE state is 95% safer than smoking – and we hope that with the introduction of the new regulations many more smokers will feel more confident in taking that same step.

What is the reaction of vaping retailers for the changes?

It’s a mixed reaction really.  I don’t believe that any retailer doesn’t welcome the standards which regard ingredients used, emissions testing and product safety.  However restrictions on bottle sizes, tank capacity and e-liquid strength have caused a lot of unnecessary headaches – particularly with the switch over period where you have to strike a balance of keeping customers happy, whilst preparing for the inevitable change.  None of these measures provide any additional level of safety, efficacy or convenience – they are arbitrary rules, with no real world benefit, and simply make it less convenient for a smoker to make the switch.

So we are in a strange middle ground where product standards will hopefully encourage more smokers to try vaping instead, but limitations on the products available (particularly nicotine strength) may make it harder for those smokers to successfully make the switch

One of the most controversial areas of the regulations are the restrictions on advertising.  In a country where we pride ourselves on our tobacco control stance and is actually championing the vaping movement publicly, it seems crazy to restrict smokers from access to information which will potentially have huge benefits for them, their family and of course the NHS.

What are the ways that the industry is adapting to these changes?

E-liquid bottles have already changed over to the 10ml limit and are no longer being produced in strengths higher than 20mg/ml, tanks have reduced to a 2ml capacity, and retailers are busy selling off the last of their non-compliant stock before the deadline of May 19th.  Testing has already been carried out and product submissions made to the EU portal. Basically the industry is complying as quickly as it can.  Our concern is simply to be able to consistently provide quality products to vapers throughout the transition and beyond.

However as much as we will work with the regulations, behind the scenes we are still doing everything we can to ensure that the UK is able to revise the regulations as soon as possible (due to brexit and so on) and maintain its position as the leading global voice in the vape debate.  If we lead by example other countries will follow.  It’s already happening thanks to the excellent reports by Public Health England and Cancer Research UK.

We are looking at revising the limits on bottle size, tank capacity, nicotine strength and advertising rules as well as tightening up standards for testing, materials and ingredients used, and creating standardised methodologies and best practices which can become industry standards.  The UK is looking to mature the industry and develop the sector to its fullest potential.  We hope that one day tobacco cigarettes will be a thing of the past.

How this effects vapers (The tank size, 10ml bottle, and leak-proof mechanism)

For current vapers the effects range from the ‘mildly inconvenient’ to the ‘down right devastating’. There are still a number of ex-smokers, or people trying to make the switch fully who rely on nicotine strengths which are higher than the new limit of 20mg/ml.  There is a genuine fear among this group of vapers that they may be forced to return to smoking if they cannot get access to e-liquid which will satisfy their cravings.  This is of course a concern for current smokers who may look to vaping in the future too (particularly heavy smokers).

For others who are already using lower nicotine strengths the effects vary.  Somebody using a mouth to lung device might just find they have to buy 3 bottles of juice rather than just one 30ml bottle.  This may also end up costing them slightly more as the costs involved in making 3 smaller bottles are greater than making one larger bottle.  Somebody who is using sub-ohm devices and therefore gets through a lot more e-liquid in a day will find it far more inconvenient in terms of refilling their tank more often and having to carry multiple spare bottles of juice.

Imagine regulations came in which restricted cans of coke to 110ml.  Every time you wanted a glass of coke you would have to get three little cans and open them all in to one glass. Then imagine that glass sizes were restricted to 22ml – you would have to refill your glass 15 times in order to drink the same amount of coke.  Yup it’s not the end of the world but it is a right royal pain, and with no actual benefit why bother?  (and there is no benefit – child resistant caps are a standard for toxic substances such as bleach or household cleaners, and the same are used for e-liquids, so really the bottle size is irrelevant).

It’s also rather hypocritical – they’ve developed guidance for a ‘leak-proof refilling mechanism’ because they don’t like the idea of people getting e-liquid on their hands… but by limiting the tank size they are actually increasing the risk of spillage as the user is forced to refill far more frequently.  You couldn’t make it up!

What is the vaping industry doing about this?

We’re limited in what we can do and retain compliant status, but many manufacturers have already started the ball rolling with multipacks of e-liquids so that the customers can still buy the same volume of liquid as before, it’s just in several smaller bottles now.  Trade associations such as the UKVIA are lobbying for a review of the regulations which Brexit gives us the opportunity to revisit.  And of course we are all continually looking to improve products and make them more effective so that things like the nicotine strength limit can be countered with a more efficient device etc.

If you would like further advice please contact Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06 or visit www.adviceguide.org.uk

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