Brine began: “Smoking causes 78,000 deaths a year in England, accounting for 16% of all deaths annually. The United Kingdom is a global leader in tobacco control and the Government are committed to ensuring that we remain so after we leave the European Union.”
The minister stated that although the current debate over Brexit continues, it is “the job of a responsible Government … to prepare for all possible scenarios.” This, then, would constitute how vaping might be dealt with in the future.
Should Britain leave the European Union, Brine pledged: “This instrument [the proposed regulations] will ensure that the UK domestic legislation that implements the two main pieces of EU tobacco legislation—the tobacco products directive and the tobacco advertising directive—continue to function effectively after exit day at the end of March”.
If anybody was hoping that Brexit would roll back legislation to the Pre-TPD days, this statement alone effectively rules that out. However, it will bring about changes.
“The amendments and revocations are being made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and are necessary in order to correct deficiencies in the UK and EU legislation in the event of no deal. The primary purpose of this instrument is to ensure that tobacco control legislation continues to function effectively after exit day. These proposed amendments are critical to ensure that there is minimal disruption to tobacco control if we do not reach a deal with the European Union.”
Brine listed out what the impact of the draft regulations would be:
- “The UK will need to develop its own domestic notification systems for companies that wish to sell tobacco products and e-cigarettes on the UK market. The notification process is essential for ensuring that companies are complying with legislation on product standards. Public Health England and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have already commenced work to ensure that domestic notification systems are in place and functional by exit day.”
- “The UK will not hold copyright to the EU library of picture warnings for tobacco products. Requiring the industry to continue to use these pictures would breach copyright law. Picture warnings are a key part of tobacco control, and it is therefore extremely important that we continue to require the inclusion of graphic picture warnings on tobacco products. The UK has therefore recently signed an agreement with the Australian Government to obtain their picture warnings free of cost. This agreement covers all copyright issues.”
- “This instrument proposes a transfer of powers. Currently, the Commission holds a range of powers under the tobacco products directive that enable it to respond to emerging threats, changing safety and quality standards, and technological advances. This instrument transfers these powers from the Commission to the Secretary of State. It should be noted that all powers in this category relate to technical, scientific and administrative adjustments that may be necessary to respond to changing circumstances in this space.”
Brine continued: “This instrument will have some impact on the tobacco and e-cigarette industry—there is no getting away from that. My Department ran a short technical consultation in October to seek feedback on the practical issues that will affect the industry in a no-deal situation. They … showed support for the proposals to amend the notification system for e-cigarette and tobacco products as a means of harm reduction.”
“The Department has consulted with external experts who confirmed that the timescale for industry to implement these changes would be difficult but certainly manageable. To support industry with these changes, the Department intends to publish detailed guidance later this month.”
Mark Pawsey, long term advocate of vaping, commented: “The vaping industry welcomes the Government’s sensible planning, but has a particular concern about products that are already registered with the EU. The industry producing such products is looking for some clarification from the Minister and some assurance about whether products that are already registered will need to be re-registered under the new UK-based system.”
“The Minister has spoken about the opportunity to reappraise our legislation. Of course, e-cigarettes are controlled by the tobacco products regulations, despite there not being any tobacco at all in such products.”
“There are three issues that are of concern to users in particular. The first is the cap on nicotine strength in vaping liquids. In many cases, it is too low to encourage heavy smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, which we know are far better for their health and which we want to encourage. There are restrictions on both the size of bottle in which vaping liquids can be sold and the tank size of vaping devices, both of which appear to be completely arbitrary, with no basis to them.”
“Both users of e-cigarettes and the manufacturing sector are hoping that this may be an opportunity for the Minister to rectify the regulations, which, frankly, are nonsensical. I look forward to the Minister’s response on those points.”