Vaping after Brexit

Britain’s approach to regulating e-cigarettes was one of the best in the world, until the EU’s nonsensical Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) severely hampered the growth of this life-saving market. Thankfully, “Brexit offers an opportunity to return to a more liberal regulatory regime to the benefit of consumers and British businesses” according to a new report released today by the Institute for Economic Affairs. We will soon have the chance to become a true #VapeNaysh: something that we at the Adam Smith Institute are very enthusiastic about.

In Vaping Solutions: An easy Brexit win, author Christopher Snowdon begins by sketching a brief history of the search for safer smoking products, including the emergence of a new wave of smoking alternatives like e-cigarettes, snus, and heat-not-burn products. In the case of the UK, e-cigarettes have proven to be an especially appealing device that helps smokers quit while maintaining the pleasure of nicotine use (despite low awareness of the comparative benefits of vaping among consumers due to advertising restrictions):

By 2016, England had two million ex-smoking vapers who had given up smoking and a further 470,000 vapers who were using e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting (Department of Health 2017: 15). These figures were remarkably high in a country that had begun the vaping era with nine million smokers, but Britain has taken to e-cigarettes more enthusiastically than anywhere else. Five per cent of British adults are current users of e-cigarettes – significantly higher than the EU average of two per cent – and vaping prevalence among ex-smokers is exceptionally high at 14 per cent (the EU average is four per cent) (Eurobarometer 2017: 107).

Snowdon then addresses some common objections to liberalising e-cigarette regulation, starting with unfounded concerns about health risks and moving onto mythbusting the idea that they are a gateway to regular cigarette smoking. He concludes by highlighting the impetus for reform and general discontent with the TPD that exists across the British political landscape.

I’d also recommended reading the Appendix, which highlights the ridiculous provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive in more detail. For example, the tank that holds my e-cigarette’s liquid is currently illegal to sell in this country (I bought it in America). Why? Because it can hold 1ml more liquid than the EU has deemed to be necessary, presumably on the basis of reducing the risk posed by somehow accidentally drinking all of it. This is bad regulation and undoubtedly has a negative impact on public health:

Banning devices that can hold more than 2ml has led to the prohibition of a large part of the market for vaping devices, preventing consumers from using their preferred products and damaging the small and medium sized businesses that manufacture and sell them.

You can read the full report here.