Tuesday 17 December 2013

Refillable e-cigarettes under threat

Yesterday was another big day for e-cigarette regulation in the EU. After the European Parliament voted against medical regulation, bureaucrats and politicians scuttled back to find ways to cripple the e-cigarette revolution by the back door. Despite the efforts of tireless MEPs such as Chris Davies and Rebecca Taylor, the anti-ecig lobby had much success. E-cigarette nicotine strengths will be limited to 20 mg and refillable e-cigarette fluid will be banned throughout the EU if three member states prohibit them.

Rebecca Taylor reports...

In negotiations with representatives of EU governments, MEPs agreed on a compromise that the maximum nicotine content of e-cigs available for general sale should be 20mg/ml, a major increase on the 4mg/ml originally proposed by the Commission and above the average routinely used. The nicotine level agreed is regarded as closely comparable to that derived from smoking conventional cigarettes.

It was agreed that the flavourings that can be used in e-cigs will be specified by national governments rather than specified by EU legislation. Refillable units, which are widely used at present, will continue to be available. They will however be subject to a safeguard clause meaning that Member States can introduce stringent national measures including a prohibition against concerned products – if justified by evidence of a serious risk to public health. If refillable e-cigarettes have been prohibited in at least three Member States, the Commission would be able to extend the ban to all Member States through a delegated act but that could be blocked by a majority in the European Parliament. The Commission was also asked to report on health and safety risks of refillables within two years’ time.

The threat to refillables is serious. Refillables are, to be frank, the e-cigarettes that work. They are the ones that long-term ex-smokers tend to use. They are more environmentally sound as they are not disposable and they tend to be produced by the small, independent traders. It is ludicrous that we could be in a position in which 25 member states want to keep them while three want to ban them and the minority is able to impose its will on the majority.

It's not over yet, however. Next up is the plenary...


Jean Granville said...

It seems to me that the MEP's have struggled to find a way to make their voters think they had not yielded on everything, because they have. Three member states wanting to ban them is ridiculously easy to find.

Now, if it takes one to two years to implement the TPD (if passed), the best hope we have is probably that there will be considerably more vapers in the meantime, with the corresponding drop in cigarette sales. That might make it difficult go on with applying the new rules.
I'm also wondering whether there is a case for attacking some aspects of the TPD before a Euro court. C. Bates seems to think so regarding snus. I don't know.

Clive Bates said...

Dear Jean / Chris...

There are good reasons for striking down large parts of the directive on legal grounds. The directive is supposed to be under an 'internal market' legal base - promoting the free movement of goods, with the qualifier that this should be with a high level of health protection. Quite how these arbitrary evidence free nicotine limits achieve that is something known only to the negotiators. Similar arguments apply to other aspects of the directive. Also, there are established principles of proportionality (any restrictive measure should be proportionate to the risk being managed) - so how does an advertising ban stand up? Then non-discrimination - are there limits on novel tobacco products - no. Then there is process... the arrogant glory hunters in the EU somehow think they are qualified not just to opine on all this, but to write restrictive legislation affecting millions of users and businesses without actually consulting them, or assessing the impacts and unintended consequences... and so it goes on.

The question is whether anyone with the money is ready to do it. I'm not sure when and how it can happen. The case on snus is overwhelming - especially as there is a new article for introducing novel tobacco products

Then there is own useless government. Did a single British civil servant point out any of this lawlessness...? No, of course not - they were chasing their back room deal like everyone else. The government can hardly complain if it is prepared to tolerate such poor policy making and rubbish process and then in other areas doesn't like the result.