Electronic cigarette regulation is a hot topic amongst the vaping world at present. As popularity and consumer numbers continue to grow, so do the conversations and arguments for associated bylaws. It is estimated that over 2 million adults in the UK are currently using e cigs, or vapers as they are known. In fact, sales figures between the years 2012 and 2013 rose by an astonishing 340% to £193 billion. Yes, that’s right, billion! These figures are according to a research publication made by consumer company Mintel in 2014.
Their findings have suggested that these devices now considerably outsell other replacement products such as nicotine patches and chewing gum. This huge upsurge in popularity, gained since the device’s inception in 2007, previously meant there was no real proven evidence to show whether e cigs are a safe alternative to smoking tobacco; or whether they effectively help cut tobacco smoking rates.
Now we are in the year 2015 and two years have passed since the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) announced that they will be responsible for regulating and authorising a product the Government have labelled as a medicine. The MHRA will perform stringent tests and checks on vapers so that doctors in the UK can prescribe them to patients, from 2016 onwards, as a device to help them reduce tobacco use.
This reposition has been welcomed by many medical experts and associated members across the country as, at present, e cigs are only covered by general product safety legislation. This of course means that they can be promoted and sold to minors legally at a time where we are not 100% certain of their ingredients. More research is required into the potential health risks and safety of many of the ingredients used to manufacture eliquid. This is especially true when you consider the fact that most products are manufactured abroad, where they do not exercise the same kind of safety regulations we are used to here in the UK.
Medicinal or Consumer Product?
So the necessity here is clear to see, regulation is vital to the future direction of electronic cigarettes as a medical replacement for tobacco products. The Government are set on licensing them as medicinal products and the MHRA are in the process of making this happen. However, the European Parliament threw a spanner into the works back in 2013 by passing legislation that states from 2016 onwards, e cigarettes will be classed as a consumer product. This exposes them to the same rules as tobacco products, such as a ban on advertising and the inclusion of prominent health warnings.
According to the EP, vapers should not be subject to the same regulations as medicinal products unless it is proven that they possess preventative or curative properties. Although, it does mean that manufacturers need to provide authorities with a comprehensive list of all ingredients that their e cigs contain.
Ready for Regulation
No matter which way this goes, the year 2016 will prove to be a pivotal year for electronic cigarette use and distribution. Whether it be a medicinal invention or a consumer product, next year will decide exactly how we perceive vapers in the media and society as a whole. The way it is set up at present, it seems as though it is down to the MHRA to prove the European Parliament wrong as it is their research that will dictate whether the product has medicinal purposes or not.
The vaping community itself is divided. Many individuals will argue for medicinal regulations as this will allow them to source prescribed electronic cigarettes from their doctor. This will significantly lower the cost of the product if prescribed as a method for replacing tobacco. On the other hand, many others will argue against this notion as they prefer having the accessibility and availability to buy the product no-questions-asked from local retailers. Whatever happens, regulations are just a puff away and they will set the standard for how we perceive vaping for the considerable future.