The EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)
Every vaper who resides in the European Union will probably have heard about the Tobacco Products Directive. But that doesn’t mean that everybody knows what this document actually says, or understands how it will impact vapers. The mere suggestion of increased regulation was enough to induce a fair degree of panic and raised the spectre of electronic cigarettes being regulated out of existence.
The feelings of panic, backed by a liberal dose of righteous indignation, sent cloud chasers rushing to their keyboards and smartphones in order to vent their spleen. Social media and forums were awash with calls for a mass uprising against the European Commission. Bloggers and vloggers warned that the end of life as we knew it was imminent. The apocalypse was on its way and would arrive 20 May 2016 when the TPD came into force.
So what happened?
Well, not a lot so far! The Four Horseman have yet to appear on the horizon.
So what exactly are the new regulations and what do they really mean for vapers?
What You Need to Know about the TPD
Vapers would not have noticed any changes when the TPD was introduced. This was primarily because manufacturers and retailers were benefitting from a transitional period. They could continue releasing devices and eliquids for sale which were not compliant with the regulations until 20 November 2016. After that, all products which retailers wished to continue to sell after 20 May 2017 were subject to testing and had to be notified to the regulatory body of the country concerned. By 20 May 2017, all products sold to consumers must be fully compliant with the TPD.
Some degree of change is on the way, but how much?
The potential changes are the result of the EU’s desire to ensure that the quality of the available products is high and that safety, particularly in relation to children, is improved. Whether the TPD will achieve these lofty ideals is another thing entirely. You will not be surprised to hear that the new regulations are complex and do not make for an exciting read. But if you cut out the legalese and the endless clauses, the new regulations for electronic cigarettes are as follows:
- Child resistant and tamper proof packaging is required for both liquids and devices
- Producers must notify the regulatory body of the ingredients in eliquids, the components in devices and the refilling mechanisms
- Devices must be protected against breakage and leakage and capable of being refilled without leakage
- Devices must deliver a consistent dose of nicotine per puff
- The capacity of tanks and cartridge must be no more than 2ml
- The nicotine strengths of eliquids must not exceed 20mg/ml
The TPD has raised a number of concerns amongst vapers and retailers. It is hard to know exactly how everything will eventually pan out. But here are the primary concerns and the likely outcomes.
Could flavours be banned by the EU?
The TPD does not ban the sale of any flavours. Each member state does have the power to regulate eliquids further and it is possible that some may choose to do this. The UK government is showing no signs of wishing to institute greater regulation. The directive itself actually states that flavours could be beneficial in helping smokers to quit.
Producers are required to provide evidence that their ingredients are of a high standard and that their manufacturing processes are safe. In addition, hefty fees apply to the notification process. This will undoubtedly result in e liquid ranges being contracted as it will cost, in the region of, £14,000 to bring each flavour to market. The likely impact of this will be that the most popular flavours will survive whilst others may fall by the wayside.
Will the TPD signal the end of refillable tanks and variable voltage mods?
The TPD does not ban any type of device, but many variable voltage mods will not meet the required standards of safety. However, manufacturers will continue to develop new devices and will work hard to evolve equipment which is compliant.
It remains to be seen how the regulations will impact the availability of refillable tanks as, in practical terms, it is impossible to guarantee that no eliquid is spilled by the vaper during the refilling process. The outcome here is going to depend on how literally the regulations are interpreted by the authorities. The requirement for unbreakable tanks could prove tricky too and may result in the only styles available being those which make it impossible to see how much juice you have left (although this looks unlikely at this stage).
Will there be a more limited choice of devices?
Many of the products that we know and love do not meet the standards required by the directive. The manufacturers will have to adapt them, or withdraw them completely. But the products on the market have already started evolving and the manufacturers have everything to gain by ensuring that vapers still have a good choice of equipment at their disposal.
There may be a period of transition where the number and variety of devices available is more limited, but it is almost inevitable that technology will continue to advance and that new devices will be developed.
Will devices and eliquids become more expensive?
Unfortunately, the burden of notification and the requirement for higher standards will mean that manufacturing costs will rise. The additional costs will almost inevitably be passed on to the consumer. However, it is likely that producers will streamline their ranges to mitigate the costs and so price rises may be minimal.
Of course, any streamlining of ranges will impact choice. But the breadth of choice available to vapers will partly depend on how many producers remain in business. There are concerns for the future of smaller producers whose operations may not remain sustainable when so many extra demands are being placed upon them.
Will high strengths of nicotine remain available?
The situation is clearer here. Nicotine content will be restricted to 20mg/ml. This will not adversely affect everyone as most vapers already prefer eliquids with a lower nicotine content than this. Vaping devices are improving all the time. As more sophisticated equipment is developed, the nicotine delivery will become more efficient and this will compensate for the lower nicotine concentration. Vapers who find that they do not receive the desired hit will simply vape more to get the nicotine that they need.
Will the TPD impact the sharing of information?
The TPD does restrict the advertising of vaping products, but does not prevent retailers from discussing their products with their clients. Vapers will still be able to share their experiences and opinions via forums and social media. Retailers are permitted to notify their customers of new products which come to market.
The prospect of change is always disconcerting and is bound to get the rumour mill working overtime. But the prophets of doom will likely be proved to have overstated their case.
There will be a period of transition and adjustment. Some of the smaller businesses in the industry may struggle to cope with the new burdens placed upon them. But there is a huge demand for vaping equipment and e liquids and demand will always drive production and innovation. Manufacturers will inevitably rise to the challenge and will develop new technology and improved devices.
The new regulations are aimed at making vaping safer and that has to be a good thing as long as the burden placed on manufacturers does not become too great. There are strict regulations about food production and that hasn’t meant that our supermarket shelves are empty. The market will evolve and the TPD may drive innovation rather than restrict it.
There is no guarantee that vaping will not be subjected to even greater regulation over time. The future of electronic cigarettes will largely depend on research into the health implications of vaping. If the long term safety of vaping can be established and smokers continue to quit successfully using e-cigs, then even the European Commission will be forced to back off!