The policy climate for vaping products is evolving rapidly, despite them only having been in the UK for barely a decade and having grown significantly in popularity.
During that time the sector has gone from little/no regulation to a highly restrictive and burdensome regime following the European Tobacco Product Directive (TPD), which was enshrined in UK law as the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR). This has created advertising bans, product restrictions, and a slowdown in product innovation.
Yet, policymakers are now waking up to consequences of this kneejerk regulation.
More and more evidence points toward the health benefits of vaping compared to smoking; and the government committed in 2017 to review vaping related regulation and promote the public health benefits of vaping more proactively.
The UKVIA has been working hard to advocate the potential public health impact of vaping products to government, MPs, peers and public health bodies.
- We provide the secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for E-Cigarettes, where we support Parliamentarians in convening evidence sessions on wide ranging areas of vaping related policy.
- The UKVIA appeared as a witness before the Science and Technology Select Committee in the House of Commons, as part of the inquiry into e-cigarettes. You can see the video of our evidence here. You can also see the UKVIA’s written evidence here.
- We have provided industry submissions to key consultations, including:
- The UKVIA advocated the removal of advertising restrictions as part of the Advertising Standards Authority 2017 consultation.
- In the government’s Industrial Strategy consultation, the UKVIA made a compelling case for the opportunities that vaping represents in the UK for health, business and the wider economy.
- We responded to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s consultation to advocate that medical practitioners should recommend vaping for smokers looking to quit.
- We have directly engaged the Department of Health (DH), Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU), as well as executive agencies including Public Health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), on the importance of promoting vaping products to smokers and key industry challenges.
- We continue to expand the sector’s wider stakeholder engagement, by liaising with and briefing key bodies and organisations, including the Local Government Association, Cancer Research UK, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Chartered Institute of Trading Standards, and many more.
- We are also actively pursuing legislative opportunities in Parliament for driving forward reforms to the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations.
The UKVIA fully supports responsible regulation that is in the best interests of consumers. However, the current regulations follow the EU’s approach of putting vaping products in the same bracket as tobacco (Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive [TPD]). The Government’s 2017 Tobacco Control Plan promised a review of Article 20 to identify areas for sensible deregulation. It is important that this review is carried out urgently and with industry involvement. In particular, the UKVIA calls for the review to consider the following:
- Advertising. Article 20 of the TPD has created a huge amount of confusion around advertising vaping products; it prohibits most vaping products being advertised or promoted on television, radio, internet adverts and printed publications including newspapers and magazines akin to tobacco products. However, there are limited or no restrictions placed on some related products, while others are able to advertise in cinemas or on the side of buses. These restrictions severely curtail the ability of the industry to communicate the public health potential of vaping to smokers and existing vapers, and create a confusing climate for both consumers and the industry. Furthermore, these types of tobacco-style advertising and marketing restrictions prevent the vaping industry actively encouraging smokers to switch to vaping.
- Product restrictions. The packaging restrictions on vaping products are more stringent than those for many hazardous products, including bleach. Article 20 imposes arbitrary, non-evidence based restrictions on vaping products in terms of nicotine strengths, bottle sizes and product information. Conversely, e-liquids containing no-nicotine are not subject to any specific regulation whatsoever – despite the fact they are being intentionally sold to be mixed with nicotine.
The UKVIA supports the requirement for consumer warnings to be included on packaging where necessary to inform consumers of both risks and benefits, indeed we strongly believe that no-nicotine containing e-liquids should be subject to the same testing and standards as other e-liquids (as is being done in the Netherlands). The nicotine strength restrictions are not based on what works for encouraging smokers to switch. The bottle size restrictions have simply added costs to the consumer and industry without any practical effect.
- Flavours. E-liquid flavours are a core part of the appeal of vaping products to smokers seeking to switch. Several countries around the world have restricted, or seek to restrict, certain flavours. The UKVIA is clear that all steps must be taken to ensure products are not marketed towards under-18s or non-smokers, but it is vital that product choice is maintained.
Vaping is an outward-looking, growth-focused industry and is well placed to capitalise on the huge potential of the new global trading environment that Brexit presents. Aside from the opportunities to reform Article 20 of the TPD, there is an important business case to be made for maintaining the UK’s position as a global centre of leadership in the vaping industry.
The UK is seen as a standard-bearer in the vaping sector and it is in this environment that the uptake and innovation of vaping products has flourished. It is crucial that the future customs and excise arrangements allow the free trade of vaping products, and do not undermine the UK’s status as a world leading innovator in safe, quality products. In light of the emerging consensus around the role of vaping products in tobacco harm reduction, the government should endeavour to maintain their affordability – which would be undermined by an excise tax as it would likely force manufacturers to raise product prices and deter more smokers from switching to vaping, as well as create a black market in unregulated, untaxed products.
All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for E-Cigarettes
The APPG for e-cigarettes is an independent cross-party group of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords who convene to debate and explore the role of vaping in smoking cessation and vaping regulation more broadly. Under the leadership of Mark Pawsey MP, the APPG has recently appointed a new group of officers; Glyn Davies MP, Gareth Johnson MP, Kate Hoey MP and Viscount Ridley, who decide its agenda and make direct representations to government and executive agencies. The APPG is currently examining:
- Vaping in public places;
- The Department of Health’s approach to vaping regulation following the Tobacco Control Plan;
- Vaping and the tobacco industry.
The UKVIA acts as the Secretariat to the APPG for e-cigarettes, providing administrative support and event facilitation. In this role, we have arranged meetings with Parliamentarians, the public health community, Trading Standards and consumers to focus on public health attitudes to vaping and the vaping regulatory landscape.
The APPG has also recently launched its first report: State of the Vaping Nation which includes a number of priority recommendations to the Government, detailed reports of evidence sessions, contributions from key stakeholders and an examination of public attitudes to vaping. Read the report here.