The EU’s Tobacco Products Directive hasn’t gone down well with the vaping community and more notably, with an increasing number of respected physicians. Article 18 states that electronic cigarettes can be placed on the market as a tobacco related product only if it complies with the provisions of the Directive and other relevant Union legislation. E-cigs are to be considered regular tobacco products only if they contain less than 20 mg/ml of nicotine. If at least three member states adopt a ban on a specific cartridge model, the European Commission will be in a position to impose a unilateral ban across the EU without the need for approval from Parliament or the member states. A review of refillable systems is scheduled to take place in two years.
European vapers are justifiably concerned that the Commission will effectively yield the power to ban refillable models without any recourse. The vast majority e-cigarettes that employ disposable cartridge systems are cigalikes (cigarette shaped e-cigs). The general consensus among the vaping community is that these models offer a sub-optimal vaping experience due to their size constraints. If the most effective models which utilize refillable reservoirs are removed from the market, many vapers are fearful they would be driven back to smoking. In a previous draft, the Commission made an attempt to impose an outright ban on refillable devices. It’s quite ironic that they cite smoking normalization as an area of concern for e-cigs when they actively attempt to remove all e-cigs from the market, except those that resemble real cigarettes of course.
It’s widely accepted among the scientific community that the proposals on nicotine limits are inadequate for heavy smokers. Although medical provisions for limits above 20mg are in place, these are unnecessary and prohibitive restrictions that needlessly limit accessibility. E-liquid bottles are due to be limited to 10ml, to what end few seem to know why, but this is just another example of nonsensical regulation without valid justification.
Millions of smokers have quit smoking and switched to electronic cigarettes because short-term studies suggest they are 99% safer than tobacco cigarettes. However, even the pleas of respected physicians and scientists don’t seem to be enough for European legislators. The European Commission seems worried about e-cigs becoming a gateway to normal cigarettes even though they do not contain tobacco. These unproven claims have been used by opponents of e-cigs before. The stakes are much higher with the potential for a looming ban on refillable e-cigs. It could end up affecting the lives of millions of converts to a better and viable alternative and even those new to the e-cigs.
The proposed regulation is flawed, and so too is the process under which it was drafted. I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg on this point, for more detailed information I highly recommend taking a moment to read through Clive Bates website. In his latest post there is a link to email EU leaders who are directly involved with the Tobacco Products Directive. Former head of ASH UK, Clive Bates also supports the view that forcing e-cigs off the shelves will remove a valuable support for people who are trying desperately to stop smoking.
A vote is provisionally scheduled for Wednesday 26th February 2014 and the only way is to have MEPs vote for Article 18 to be modified or voted down so that it can be done again, properly. While this won’t be easy, manufacturers, vendors and vapers across the EU ought to put relentless pressure on the Commission. This must be done by reaffirming your support for a good cause by emailing, writing or getting in touch with your local representatives, MEPs and leaders. Simply outline your own positive experience and make your concerns known, it can go a long way in keeping the right e-cigs on the shelves and helping millions to enjoy a safer alternative to smoking tobacco.