What Brexit Means for Vaping in the UK
If you are a vaper, then you ought to know about a piece of EU legislation that threatens the future of vaping in the UK.
Whatever your stance on the EU, both ‘exiteers’ and ‘remainers’ can agree that the TPD, a law that will change the way you vape from May 2016, is a terrible piece of legislation. It will cause popular vaping products to be banned, limiting customer choice. The remaining products will have to jump through expensive bureaucratic hoops, meaning an inevitable price hike. There’s a real risk that many vaping businesses will have to close their doors.
Lawmaking without accountability
Who voted for this law? Did anyone check with members of the public? Where scientists asked? Where members of parliament consulted? The answers, across the board, is a resound “nope”. The TPD represents EU lawmaking at its worst.
At the heart of the TPD is the simply untrue assertion that e-cigarettes are tobacco products. They aren’t, they don’t contain tobacco, and this kind of perverse Orwellian doublethink doesn’t reflect well on the EU at all. E-cigarettes are only superficially similar to cigarettes; nicotine is the only shared ingredient, and the nicotine-free e-cigarettes, of which there are many, will be regulated just the same. In fact, they are much more similar to nicotine inhalers, a product which gets a preferential 5% tax treatment.
It’s not just British businesses that are let down by the TPD, but the British people too. Roughly 75,000 people die in Britain each year as a direct consequence of smoking. If these smokers were able to get their nicotine from e-cigarettes instead, then tens of thousands of lives would be saved. Recently, even the “95% less harmful than tobacco” figure has been called into question. Professor Siegel argued that, for that to be the case, we would have seen 20,000 vaping deaths already, and there’s no evidence that that has happened.
Restrictive e-cigarette legislation will not lower the number of nicotine users in this country, it simply incentivises nicotine users to buy the more harmful product rather than the less harmful one.
A big win for the bad guys
Who benefits from the TPD? Not you or anyone you know, unless you happen to be CEO of a pharmaceutical company. Pharmaceutical companies make a killing from completely ineffective smoking cessation products (gums, patches and inhalers). This lucrative industry has taken a hit thanks to the arrival of e-cigarettes, which not only work better but are also more enjoyable. To steady the ship, big pharma lobbied the EU hard.
Big tobacco companies come out of the TPD surprisingly well too. Although they own a number of e-cigarette brands, up until now they have struggled to compete with the more innovative e-cigarette products designed by nimbler companies with better products such as Kanger and Aspire. But the TPD means that any company wishing to sell an e-cigarette product will have to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in testing fees. Only the big tobacco companies can afford to do this — meaning that they’ll be the only players left in the game.
But the British government supports vaping!
All of this flies in the face of the British government’s support for vaping so far. The NHS is on the brink of prescribing e-cigarettes to patients. Public Health England found in the most comprehensive review of the literature to date that vaping is likely 95% less harmful than smoking, UK charities such as Cancer Research UK and Action on Smoking Health have come out in support of using e-cigarettes as a quit smoking tool, and stop smoking services have designed an enlightening and empathetic guide to using e-cigarettes.
These sentiments are not shared on the continent, where EU officials are keen on a much more tightly regulated market. Documents circulated by EU officials describe the loss of tax revenue due to smokers quitting as “problematic”. Even more worrying still, there is the possibility for an outright ban on e-cigarettes if just three member states are in favour of such a ban.
The TPD leaves many vapers hoping for Brexit this summer. The law restricts British freedoms, hurts British businesses and is counter to the stance of the British government. There are 2.2 million vapers in the UK, 1,500+ vape business owners, plus their friends and family, with a compelling reason to vote leave. That’s a significant chunk of the vote given how tight the polling is at the moment. Politicians on either side of the debate would do well to listen to the vapers on this one.
How will you be voting this summer? Does the EU’s anti-vaping stance put you in the out camp?