Bates, Brexit and Vaping in Britain

Posted 17th December 2019 by Dave Cross
With the U.K. general election over and the dust beginning to settle, harm reduction advocate Clive Bates has ventured his opinion on what might be in the pipeline for vaping following the result. Next year will see progress on the next version of the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and it bodes ill.

Ultimately, Clive Bates says, “it is still too soon to tell.” This said, Clive feels his 2016 opinions still hold firm: “We are likely to negotiate a settlement that requires compliance with single market regulations. So we could leave the EU and still have the TPD, with no say on its future. This is not certain but the most likely outcome in my view.”

Clive thinks “it is likely (not certain) that the UK will continue to comply with the EU Tobacco Products Directive in both its current form and future versions”. This will come as bad news for those who hoped Brexit might bring about a liberalisation of regulation of vaping.

The reason for this? Because of the likelihood of “regulatory alignment and level playing field provisions in a future trade deal or simply because the UK government will see little point in diverging from this particular directive.”

“We can already guess what will be covered by regulatory alignment because the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement sets out the list of regulations on goods that must be applied in Northern Ireland.”

For Clive, he feels that UK harm reduction activists should operate a policy of “defensive assumption the UK will continue to comply while working to clarify and influence the UK government approach. If and when a UK approach to the TPD becomes clearer, then adjust strategy.”


He agrees that the U.K. has made the current iteration of the TPD workable, albeit with some obvious flaws such as the restrictions on advertising, pointless limits to nicotine strength and the ban on snus – but TPD3 could well impose some serious problems.

Refill containers, flavours and access are under the spotlight in light of the EVALI THC-related outbreak in the United States and the ongoing hysteria over a non-existent “teen epidemic”.

“The European Parliament is also gearing up. Its lead committee on tobacco policy, ENVI, has already held private meetings on e-cigarettes and a more substantive meeting with a presentation from the Commission is planned for January.”

Clive says the ENVI Committee “has become preoccupied by the recent developments in the United States and are following that narrative”.

We can expect problems over:

  1. Accidental ingestion of e-liquid
  2. Dermal contact
  3. Mixing or customisation of liquids
  4. Use of e-liquids with untested devices and hardware customisation

There is going to be a fight to be had whichever way the government decides to swing. If you aren’t already, it might be a good time to think about supporting the UK’s leading consumer charity for alternative nicotine products: the New Nicotine Alliance.


  • “Brexit and Vaping” by Clive Bates – [link]
  • Support the New Nicotine Alliance – [link]

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker