Brexit and Vaping

Posted 12th July 2018 by Mawsley
In 2016, many believed that leaving the European Union would allow the United Kingdom to relax some of the more draconian aspects of the Tobacco Products Directive. It was argued that a ‘Leave’ vote would return 30-100ml bottles and scrap the idiotic 2ml limit on tank size. According to Clive Bates, the government’s recent white paper rules out such moves.

“Many in the Westminster bubble have lost touch with the feelings of smokers including those using e-cigarettes to quit,” said the 100K Campaign in 2016.

Pascal Culverhouse concurred, and wrote in The Economic Voice: “We have an unwanted law coming into place in May [the TPD] that restricts British freedoms, hurts British businesses and is at odds with the stance of the democratically elected government. This is a hugely compelling reason for the 2.2 million British vapers, the 1,500 business owners and the thousands of e-cigarette company employees to vote ‘leave’ in the coming referendum.”

But this view wasn’t shared across the whole of the harm reduction and vaping community. Advocate Clive Bates believed an exit wouldn’t change anything: “Does leaving the EU help? No. I think UK leaving the EU will not fix this problem at all. If there is a Brexit, UK is likely to have to comply with this directive anyway and we would lose one of the more progressive voices from the process of reforming it.”

Earlier this year, ASH’s Deborah Arnott argued that the TPD hasn’t been a problem: “The TPD has not been disastrous, and though there are potentially opportunities, it is not going to be one of the main priorities of Brexit. The use of e-cigarettes in the UK has not grown significantly since the TPD came into effect. Our view is that the regulations as they work at the moment are fine. If it isn’t broke, then why fix it?”

Many have been wondering how the government’s new stance, as explained in the recent white paper, will impact vaping. Clive Bates’ opinion is that it isn’t good: “Looks like UK vaping Leaver comrades will be disappointed by Brexit. Under the new Cabinet agreement, vaping products would remain bound by single market rules after 2020, though the UK will have no say from 30 March 2019. The EU will fax over the text of TPD3 once it’s agreed.”

“It was clear more than two years ago that Leavers might exclude UK from the EU legislative processes for new a TPD, but that the Directive would still apply to the UK. I may have mentioned it,” he continued.

“Maybe M. Barnier will come to the rescue and refuse to accept the UK government position? That is likely in its current form. But further concessions from the UK are the most likely response, rather than an unfeasible chaotic no-deal exit on 29 March 2019.”

Some argue that this will only apply to trade with Europe, and that the new TPD will not apply to sales within the UK and to non-EU nations. But are vendors and manufacturers willing to operate to two different standards? Is there a will in parliament to do away with parts of the TPD - especially if they are listening to the likes of Deborah Arnott? There is a distinct possibility that 2ml tanks are here to stay.