Across the Atlantic, US town councils continue to crack down on vapers under the guise of anti-smoking regulation. At least two more bans were introduced this week, one restricting vape purchases to over-21s and the other making it illegal to use e-cigarettes in an Arkansas city’s public parks.
The European Union’s assault on e-cigarettes, enacted by Article 20 of the Tobacco Products Directive, has been widely slammed as an unscientific and potentially dangerous law. However, vapers in the UK have been reassured by the fact that the government has taken a fairly lax approach to enforcement. That may be about to chance, as the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency – which is responsible for “interpreting” the TPD standards – announced a tightening of the rules on Wednesday.
It seems that the MHRA is not amused at some of the loopholes which have emerged since the TPD came into law. One example is tanks that come with a TPD-compliant 2ml glass fitted, but a larger one included in the kit. Another is a well-known tank which has a 2ml capacity when fitted with a special “fat” coil, but becomes 4ml with a standard coil installed. From now on any component that changes the liquid capacitywill need to be separately notified – and it goes without saying that it’s going to be instantly rejected.
There are also rumours that the MHRA are unhappy with zero-nic flavoured liquid being sold together with a nicotine shot.
British vapers have been reassured by regulators and public health that a “light touch” approach would be taken to the regulations, so advocates are now disturbed that MHRA are tightening the screw so soon.
British American Tobacco have been forced to withdraw an advert from their UK website following a complaint from Nicorette manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. The advert was for their new Vype Pebble product, a compact e-cigarette using proprietary liquid cartridges. J&J made four specific complaints; the Advertising Standards Agency upheld three of them fully and one partly.
The partly-upheld complaint was that BAT described the Pebble as “small and mighty”. The ASA accepted that “small” is a reasonable and factual description – it’s only three inches long with a cartridge fitted – but weren’t convinced by “mighty”.
J&J’s other three complaints related to the style of the video and the wording of a special offer. One of the oddities of the TPD is that companies are allowed to advertise their products on their own website, but the advertisements aren’t allowed to be promotional – they’re limited to factual claims. The ASA ruled that the video embedded in the advert was stylised, rather than factual, and the wording of a “Buy five, get one free” offer was intended to encourage people to buy the product. This interpretation of the law puts serious obstacles in the way of anyone who wants to advertise vapour products in the UK.
Two more US towns imposed restrictions on vapers this week, as tobacco laws impacted on harm reduction alternatives. Firstly Powell, Ohio, joined the “Tobacco 21” trend, banning the sale of tobacco products to people who’ve been old enough to vote or serve in combat for three years. As usual the definition of “tobacco products” includes any e-liquid which contains nicotine. The law was passed by a 7-0 vote on Tuesday despite at least one councilman expressing reservations about it; supporters of the change included the American Lung Association.
Also on Tuesday the city of Van Buren, Arkansas passed an ordinance making it illegal to smoke or vape in the city’s six public parks. Officially the new law is to “preserve and protect the public health, safety and welfare”, although there has never been any suggestion that second-hand smoke could be dangerous in an outdoor environment. However city officials suggested the real reason is that in the current political climate it’s easier to obtain funding for tobacco-free parks.
During a parliamentary discussion on tobacco control on Wednesday, Labour MP Kevin Barron was asked if he was aware that the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive made it harder to access vapour products. Barron responded that vaping is 95% safer than smoking, that “this is a fact” and e-cigarettes will be included and supported in the UK’s new tobacco control plan. During the discussion it was pointed out that vaping is also a social justice issue, as many low-income people are smokers and vaping is considerably cheaper.
A Conservative MP reminded Barron that the TPD was introduced and pushed through by a Labour MEP, Linda McAvan. Barron acknowledged that he was aware of this, but reaffirmed his support for vaping.