Vape – Have you heard of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)? Sounds dull, right? But you should know it’s had a significant impact on our industry and has played a major part in shaping the UK’s safety regulations around e-cigarettes and vape.
Before the TPD, some countries didn’t allow e-cigarettes to be imported, sold, or distributed, and others had no regulations. In the UK, e-cigarettes came under existing product safety regulations and were treated the same way as medicines.
The TPD paved the way to improving standards in the UK’s vaping industry with better, safer products and more guidelines on the manufacturing and selling of e-cigarettes and e-liquids. As a result, the UK’s vape can rest easy knowing they’re protected by law and have access to certified retailers who have been through a rigorous approval process before they can even begin selling e-cigarettes, e-liquids, and accessories.
The TPD guidelines are applied to all tobacco products, including rolled cigarettes, cigars, and cigarettes, and cover everything from testing ingredients to taxation. Your vape starter kit is included because any nicotine used is distilled from the tobacco plant.
It’s been more than seven years since this vital directive was introduced. The TPD was drafted and enacted by the EU in 2014 and was fully implemented in EU states on May 20, 2016. Anti-smoking group ASH called it ”a tremendously important day for health”.
At the time, the restrictions might not have been popular with some, but it did mean there was official published guidance to protect them. The UK now has some of the best protections in the world regarding the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes.
What does the TPD mean for vapers?
The regulations mainly impact the capacity of containers and the sale of e-liquid. To be compliant, the following applies to every e-cigarette manufacturer, importer, and retailer in the UK:
- Containers need to be child-safe and tamper-proof
- Bottles must be protected against breakage and leaks
- E-liquid is restricted to a maximum of 10ml in a single bottle (although there were criticisms this would lead to more plastic waste)
- Tank sizes in kits should be no more than 2ml
- Any additives which give e-liquids the impression of somehow benefiting your health aren’t allowed
- E-liquids must not contain caffeine, taurine, or colorings
- There is a 2% or 20mg/ml limit on nicotine levels
- Product labels and packaging must carry correct warnings and appropriate information on use and risks
- All e-liquids must undergo emissions testing
- Products must be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before they go on sale
- Each year manufacturers and importers must report data on sales and information on who buys what (for example, young people and non-smokers)
The TPD rules also mean:
- Protection to stop under 18s using e-cigarettes
- Accurate information so users can make informed choices when buying products
- Minimum standards for the safety and quality of e-cigarettes and refill containers
- A 6-month notice period to the MHRA before any new products are allowed to be sold
The TPD allows individual countries in the UK to make their own decisions on:
- Smoke-free environments
- Age restrictions
- Nicotine-free cigarettes
With Brexit, the regulations were amended so rules for e-cigarettes could continue after withdrawal. In the UK, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have introduced age restrictions, rules of advertising sales, smoke-free areas, nicotine-free cigarettes, and flavorings.
It’s fair to say that the TPD has become an accepted part of vape life in the UK, and it is essential to follow all the guidelines to keep customers happy and safe. But just because the regulations exist doesn’t mean everyone observes them.
The industry has its share of fakes and scammers who have no regard for the law, especially regarding product safety and sales to minors. All you can do is remind yourself that if you’re ever offered an “under-the-counter” kit or e-liquid, a quick check against the list above will determine whether it’s legit. Plus, you can always go to the e-cigarette section of the MHRA website, where you can access a list of MHRA-approved products, validating their safety for sale and consumption.
So, what’s in store for the future? Well, the fact the NHS could soon prescribe e-cigarettes shows that vaping is seen as a better alternative to the much riskier habit of smoking tobacco. It is the one we all should watch out for.