Brexit on the Vaping Industry

The vaping industry in Britain is currently regulated by the Tobacco & Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR), which is the UK’s implementation of the European Tobacco Products Directive (TPD). As an EU Member State at the time, the UK was obliged to bring these regulations into force. However, with the Brexit transition period now expired, whose guidance will we follow if not the TPD’s? And should we be feeling optimistic or pessimistic towards the future of vaping in the UK? There is currently a lot of speculation regarding these matters and not much else. In this article, we’re going to go over all the information we’ve compiled from the head voices of multiple organisations and share our own views on the matter at hand. We’ll try to collectively gain a rough insight into where things may be headed in this post-Brexit era.

Will the TRPR be reviewed?

Referencing the Tobacco Control Plan published by our government in 2017, “the government has made a commitment to review the TRPR by May 2021 to consider its regulatory impact”. Vaping campaigners are keen for this to happen, as there has been a definite disconnect between our government’s views on vaping and other government’s within the EU. While countries like the Netherlands put further constraints on the vaping industry with flavour bans and vape taxation plans for this year, the UK has been world-leading in its positive scientific backing.

Public Health England has been the driving force behind this, with no other government body in the world showing anywhere near the same level of endorsement. Their study which concluded that e-cigarettes are “95% less harmful than tobacco” has been vital to the wellbeing of our industry, helping to dismiss false claims of vaping-related illnesses, such as that which occurred in America with the so-called “vaping lung disease”. Doesn’t it also seem a little coincidental that as well as being the only country to publish such positive studies, we’re also globally ranked as the most resistant to tobacco industry lobbying? We’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that.

So, yes, the TRPR is very much on track to being revised at some point in the near future, but the real question remains: what regulations could and should change? At this point, we can only but hope for the best. What we do know for sure, however, is that a move away from the constraints of EU’s tobacco control policy opens the doors for us to set our own rules and regulations. We may finally be able to move on from the seemingly archaic restrictions on sizes of bottles containing nicotine and advertisement prohibition (etc.) which only help to further discourage people from ever picking up a vape device. Let’s make vaping a cheaper and more accessible option to those who need it most.

The NNA’s 10-step plan

So, in case you’re not already familiar with their work, the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) is a group of individuals who contribute to improving “individual, organisational and public understanding of what is known as tobacco harm reduction”. They’ve recently made headlines by suggesting a set of proposals to the UK government, outlining ways in which a change in regulations could help achieve the UK Government’s goal of a smoke-free country by 2030.

You can view the entire letter by clicking here. We think the NNA has highlighted some poignant issues which need to be revised as soon as possible, and I don’t think any vaper in the UK can argue against the points raised. The letter ends with an invitation for the Government to work alongside the NNA in formulating the right approach to vaping in the UK.

The UK government has been widely in support of vaping and other so-called “novel nicotine products” over the years, so let’s hope they continue with this mindset now that Brexit is in full swing. It would be a complete u-turn on their part for them to act against this notion.

The IBVTA’s hopes and expectations

The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) is another organisation within the UK that is pushing for a brighter future for the vaping industry post-Brexit. Gillian Golden, the CEO of IBVTA, has shared her thoughts on what changes she hopes will be implemented in the near future. She stated that the “vape industry is now the fastest-growing in the UK and the United Kingdom is the world’s second-largest market for vape products after the United States. In terms of local commerce, vape shops are one of the few growth sectors. The UK independent vape industry has a worldwide reputation for quality and innovation.”

Despite your views on Brexit, you have to agree that when regarding the vape industry, the UK has the potential to become the world leader in vaping, in terms of both the global political environment and the boost to the economy. Gillian Golden made it clear that it’s of the utmost importance that the UK rejects any agreements in which the UK is still bound by the EU’s tobacco control policy.

The abolition of PHE

Earlier last year, the government announced plans to abolish Public Health England (PHE) and replace it with a new agency specifically dealing with preparation for pandemics. My initial reaction to hearing this was that of trepidation. After all, PHE is the main agency that continually backs the vaping industry year on year, with their sixth independent e-cigarette report having been published in March of this year. However, after hearing the opinions of experts in this field, I think I may have been overestimating the cause for concern.

Clive Bates, the Ex-Director Action on Smoking and Health, recently spoke on this matter, stating “I’m not worried about this. A new agency will take shape next year to forward all the things that PHE does that are not to do with infectious disease. I’d see the abolition of PHE earlier in 2020 as a political play that suited the government at the time it did it, rather than a fundamental shift in attitude. There will probably be some pruning, but the government is committed to a smoke-free 2030 goal and will need some sort of agency to drive that forward.”

It seems like the negatives outcomes surrounding Brexit will fall entirely on the side of the EU. With there no longer being a UK voice in the European Parliament, the potential for more stringent TPD regulations grows likelier. For wider political and economic reasons, the UK has continued to have little say in these matters, which is why Brexit brings the opportunity for substantial change.

Our thoughts

We couldn’t agree more with the points raised by both the NNA and the IBVTA. We owe these organisations a lot for constantly striving towards a fairer and more effective regulatory environment for nicotine delivery devices. We believe organisations like these are what put the UK vaping industry in a league of its own, and what gives us additional hope for the future of our industry. Moreover, if the government wants to stay on track to achieving its goal of a smoke-free Britain by 2030, they need to show our industry the recognition it deserves and work with us, not against us.

Another such organisation we haven’t yet mentioned is the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) of whom we recently partnered with. They “represent the largest proportion of the UK marketplace and the entire supply chain including manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and compliance service providers who all share our vision of a world where the evidence-based life-changing public health benefits of vaping products are fully understood and the positive impact is maximised.” We couldn’t be happier to be a part of an organisation which understands and recognises the true value of our industry and we’re excited to see the impact we can make in numbers.

As of January 1st, all matters are entirely in the hands of our government, for better or worse. We hope that our elected officials choose to represent us in a way which we see fit, but until that point, only time will tell.

We hope you enjoyed reading our guide and we’ve helped clear up any confusion you may have had regarding the issues at hand. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what may lie ahead for UK vaping industry; feel free to comment below if you want your voice heard!

Thanks all, see you in the next article.