Brexit may give the UK e-cigarette business a boost and prove a boon for vapers as it could be the opportunity for government ministers to cut red tape surrounding the strength and size of nicotine refill containers and lead to changes to other associated vaping products. Vaping has proved the popular option for regular smokers wishing to kick the habit, as electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, but no tar or smoke. However, there are claims that heavy smokers are deterred from switching to vaping as the available e-liquids do not contain enough nicotine to meet their needs.
Vaping is regulated by the Tobacco Products Directive issued by the EU
The Tobacco Products Directive guidelines issued by the EU currently restrict the allowable nicotine strength in e-liquids to 20 milligrammes per mm or mg/ml. Christian Mulcahy, the head of the UK Vaping Industry Association has stated that leaving the EU may be the impetus needed to scrap this regulation. He commented that heavy smokers with a habit of smoking 20 or more cigarettes daily would be more likely to benefit from e-liquid strengths of 30-40 milligrammes, as this would prevent them needing to vape so often to achieve their essential nicotine requirements. He also called for a relaxation of the ruling limiting e-liquid containers to a maximum of 10ml. He suggested that 30, 40 or 60ml e-liquid bottles would be far cheaper to produce and prove much more convenient for vapers while being kinder to the environment at the same time. It is also currently illegal to sell vapes with tanks larger than 2ml, under Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive.
There were approximately 2.8 million UK vapers in 2017; however, restrictions imposed by the Tobacco Products Directive could well affect the numbers of people switching to vaping, as the legislation places advertising restrictions around vaping products, alongside increased regulations surrounding labelling of e-liquids and accessories. Many smaller e-liquid producers have cut their product ranges as a result of the stringent legislation contained within the Tobacco Products Directive and this reduces choice for regular vapers.
Vaping is recognised by Public Health England as being 95 percent less harmful than tobacco and is the primary aid for quitting smoking nowadays, so any reduction to regulations put in place by the Tobacco Products Directive will be popular with current smokers and vapers. Any new regulations which improve consumer freedoms and choices are likely to be viewed positively by the vaping public and industry; however, it has to be said that relaxing the regulations could create a barrier to freedom of trade with EU countries in future. The Tobacco Products Directive is due to be reviewed around May 2021, after the UK has exited from the EU.