August 2, 2016
The rise of vaping over the last few years has been incredible to witness. The arrival of e-cigarettes has been a true grass-roots revolution, impacting positively on millions of lives as smokers look to quit traditional tobacco.
Vaping’s popularity has seen several incarnations of e-cigarettes and liquids come and go, as the products moved from bargain stores and pop-up stalls to mainstream high-street boutiques.
Regulation of the industry has been slow. Fears over the manufacturing process, the ingredients used and the exposure to the products by children have now given rise to tougher EU laws – which came into force in May. These echoed even more draconian measures mooted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US.
Could these measures be spelling the death knell for the vaping industry as we know it? The answer could depend on geography.
Reports suggest that the most regular users of e-cigarettes and shisha pens are those who are seeking an alternative to traditional smoking and its well-known adverse effects.
Vaping Mimics the Smoking “Routine”
In 2007, smoking was banned in public places in the UK. Talking to the BBC at the time, Ann McNeil, a Professor in health policy and promotion at the University of Nottingham, offered the opinion that the routine of smoking was often inseparable from the cravings, making quitting extremely difficult to do.
For example, one difficult barrier to overcome for those looking to quit smoking is that of what to do with the hands to overcome the “fidget”. Vaping can help control the intake of nicotine and harmful toxins but, crucially, still offers the comfort of a “smoking routine” and something to hold on to.
Coupled with the ability to try a myriad of different flavors and also enjoy the subculture of “modding” your equipment — it is no wonder that vaping has found its way out of the underground.
The Change: More Regulation
So far, vaping has been a cheaper and safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, which are taxed heavily. Regulations such as the recent EU Tobacco Products Directive — which now also encompasses e-cigarettes — are set to impact on the cost and manufacturing process.
All areas of the industry will be affected as new liquids and hardware will be required to have undergone a six-month approval period and there are constraints imposed on the size of the liquid containers (2ml, instead of the usual 5ml seen so far). Labeling of products must improve and, importantly, nicotine levels in the liquids are also limited to 20mg/ml — which is 4mg/ml lower than the amount that smokers look for when they migrate from smoking to vaping. Advertising vaping is also banned — which includes restrictions imposed on bloggers and vloggers looking to review the products.
Naturally, the industry will have to find ways to circumvent the regulations.
Last year’s Public Health England report into the benefits of using e-cigarettes to give up smoking was seen as a boon, prompting the National Health Service (NHS) to offer the products to patients who had difficulty in quitting.
Under the new guidelines, brands which make medicinal claims such as “Helps you to quit smoking” will require authorization to continue to do so — and only those with the requisite licence will be made available by the NHS.
Those brands which do not make such a claim will have to meet the safety and quality standards stipulated by the TPD.
But Regulation Could Better Inform Consumers
UK-based site E Cig Reviews looked at the positives to come from the news: “not only can consumers still buy and use e-cigarettes, they now benefit from improved safety and quality requirements. In addition, rules on packaging and labelling ensure that consumers are better informed.“
However, rules in the U.S. look to be much tougher. Federal Government has decreed that vaping “needs to be regulated and kept out of the hands of children.” In much the same way as in Europe, labeling and manufacturing processes face stringent tests.
Some stateside observers see this as creating a stranglehold — claiming a tobacco-industry conspiracy and predicting that the vaping market “will be frozen” come August.
“You will not be able to make or sell any new products without approval from the FDA. Beyond that, vendors will have two years to file their pre-market tobacco applications. Each application for approval to sell “tobacco products” will probably cost over a million dollars, and there is no guarantee it will be accepted by the FDA.”
The successful growth of the vaping industry was never going to go unnoticed. Manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic have already shown great innovation and an ability to meet market needs. Those skills will need to be in evidence as they navigate the coming months.
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