In recent years, the regulation of the electronic cigarettes industry has significantly increased, be it via the Food & Drug Administration in America, or European Parliament overseas. Neither example has been able to create regulations that have been embraced by vape stores, or by vapers.
In fact, both organisations have received criticism. It appears to some that these regulations have been put in place without due care for who they might affect. It is understandable that some control needs to be in place to ensure that consumers can be certain what they are buying, but it’s possible that the industries may be crippled because of it, preventing competition and development.
So let’s compare the situation in Europe and the situation in the US. What can we learn from this crisis? Has the e-cigarette industry been treated fairly, with due process? Will the FDA back down and support a more moderate approach, like that of Europe?
The US Response to Electronic Cigarettes
As with most countries, electronic cigarettes have polarised opinion within the United States — particularly in the media, where public opinion seems to have swung from negative to positive every few months. Many within the medical sector sit on the fence, stating that not enough research has been carried out. Some condone the use of e-cigarettes completely and others promote its benefits (when compared with traditional tobacco).
Most recently, the US Surgeon General highlighted a study which showed the effects of nicotine on young people. While he did agree that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional ones, his views on regulation and the harm nicotine could cause children’s development have been what has dominated public opinion.
While the way the public and the pharmaceutical industry views electronic cigarettes continues to shift, it is the FDA’s regulations that have had the most harmful impact on the industry. Commonly described as the government’s “war against vaping”, whether intentional or not, these new limitations are likely to cripple small-scale vape manufacturers and retailers.
But it will also have a negative effect on those who already vape. The “unintended consequences” of the regulations are profound and potentially life-threatening. The FDA has assigned “zero value” to those who already smoke and could use electronic cigarettes to help them quit. Considering the US e-cigarette market was one of the largest in the world, this could affect thousands of people.
While the US vape industry is set for turbulent times, in comparison, industry in Europe and the UK are witnessing a more moderate approach.
Europe and the Tobacco Products Directive
In Europe, there has been less animosity towards the vape industry. In the UK in particular, most studies have been in favour of using e-cigarettes to quit smoking. In fact, the National Health Service (NHS) officially recommends them as a way to quit smoking. While there is concern over the ease with which children can buy e-cigs, it has been made illegal to sell products to anyone under the age of 18.
Much like in America, e-cigarette products in Europe have now been classified under the umbrella term “tobacco products”. This has allowed last year’s Tobacco Products Directive to begin the regulation of the industry. Fortunately, it seems that these regulations may not be as fearsome as we first thought. However, it is clear that high street vape stores will be affected quite heavily. This is due to the more technical vape practices now being the most restricted (ingredients for self mixed e-liquids, larger tanks and larger e-liquid bottles are often found in high street vape stores).
While the vaping laws in the EU are often just as absurd as those found in America (like prohibiting e-liquid bottles bigger than 10ml…), at least some governments can see the benefits of using e-cigarettes. In these countries, there is a more relaxed and realistic approach to regulations. In the UK, it will only cost £150 to have a new product tested, compared with £4,000 in Belgium — but that’s still well under the costs expected to be forked out many US vape brands.
Hopefully, these examples will show America (and the world) that vaping should be promoted, not punished.
Electric Tobacconist: What is the future for e-cigarettes?
At Electric Tobacconist, we sell our products both in the UK and the US. It’s not regulation that’s the problem; it’s how harshly the industry has been constricted. We can see less choice being available for our customers, which seems to be the way governments are discouraging people from vaping.
The global e-cigarette market is huge. These regulations aren’t going to stop people buying e-cigarettes, much in the same way raising the price of tobacco isn’t the most effective way to get people to quit. Instead, big businesses (mostly tobacco companies) are the only ones who will be able to afford to jump through the regulation hoops.
We hope that 2017 will see positive changes in the way e-cigarettes are portrayed, both in the media and by the medical and scientific sectors. The electronic cigarette industry and its grass-roots following, has developed some impressive technology, culture and innovative products that can change people’s lives. Let’s hope that this is taken into account sooner rather than later, so we don’t see any more destructive legislation.
Author Bio: Pascal Culverhouse is the founder and CEO of Electric Tobacconist, supplying the very best e-cigarette products to the UK and US. As part of the vape community, he struggles to see the value of these harsh regulations. Ideally, vapers should work alongside the government to help create a healthy, happy, sustainable vaping industry.