UKVIA made a media appearance when Christian Mulcahy was interviewed by The Telegraph on the opportunities that Brexit creates for the vaping industry.
Brexit may provide a boost for the electronic cigarette industry as it could allow ministers to slash red tape which dictates the size and strength of nicotine refill containers.
The use of e-cigarettes, widely known as vaping, has proven popular among those who wish to kick the habit as they contain nicotine but no tar or smoke.
The devices heat up liquid nicotine, known as e-liquid, until it becomes vapour which is then inhaled by the user.
Though e-liquid contains no tobacco, the product is subject to strict EU regulations on smoking under its Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
But Christian Mulcahy, the head of the UK Vaping Industry Association, says leaving the EU could open the door to scrapping such rules, which he claims deter some smokers from switching to e-cigarettes.
The proposal highlights how leaving the EU could improve consumer choice and freedom, though it also risks throwing up trade barriers between the UK and the continent.
“The world is very much looking to the UK in terms of creating sensible and proportionate regulation around these products,” Mr Mulcahy told the Telegraph.
“There are arbitrary decisions which have been imposed by the European directive. An example is nicotine strength – we have a restriction where the maximum nicotine strength is 20 milligrammes [per millimeter, or mg/ml].”
He said heavy smokers, such as those who consume an entire packet of cigarettes or more per day, cannot benefit from vaping as a means to stop smoking because the liquid is too weak.
“They might need 30mg or 40mg. They’re having to use much lower nicotine strength levels which do not meet their requirements. so they need to vape more often than they need to,” he said.
Public Health England says that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco, though other health experts have raised concerns over possible long term health risks.
Mr Mulcahy also called for the rules to be relaxed so that vaping firms could sell larger e-liquid bottles, which are currently limited to 10ml.
“From a packaging point of view it doesn’t make sense to have all these bottles being produced. A 30, 40 or 60ml bottle would be more convenient [for vapers], more convenient for the environment and cheaper to produce,” he said.
Anti-smoking campaigners sceptical of benefits
However, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), said little could be gained from regulatory divergence on e-cigarettes.
“The TPD has not been disastrous, and though there are potentially opportunities [to reform it], it is not going to be one of the main priorities of Brexit.”
She added: “The use of e-cigarettes in the UK has not grown significantly since the TPD came into effect. Our view is that the regulations as they work at the moment are fine. If it isn’t broke, then why fix it?”
Ms Arnott pointed to a recent study carried out by ASH and Yougov which found that before the TPD was implemented, only 6 per cent of vapers used e-liquid stronger than 20mg/ml.
The TPD is due to be reviewed around May 2021, but at this point the UK will have already left the EU and it is understood that the transition period will have ended.