As anyone who follows the news knows, the European Union has been struggling to determine just how it wants to deal with regulations and taxes on vaping devices. With electronic cigarettes becoming increasingly popular throughout Europe, the United States, and other areas of the world, legislators and regulators find themselves in a difficult position. For while much of the science surrounding these products clearly reveals them to be a safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, governments often feel an obligation to protect their citizens from even the smallest potential for harm. In Europe, that has led to the passage of regulations designed to more effectively control their citizens’ access to these harm reduction products. With many of the newest rules set to go into effect in May of 2016, this is as good a time as any to take a new look at what’s in store.
Beginning on May 20, 2016, vapers within the European Union will see many new regulations come into effect. These rules were designed to impact vapers – ostensibly for their own protection. On that date, an update to the 2001 Tobacco Products directive becomes active, allowing the regulators to treat e-cigarette products as though they were tobacco offerings.
None of this is out of the ordinary, at least as far as governments are concerned. Similar deeming actions have been proposed in the United States by the FDA, as that government seeks greater regulatory and taxing power over electronic nicotine delivery devices, you can read that update here. The American government is also adopting the position that deems e-cigs to be tobacco, so the EU will at least have company in that decision.
In the absence of some form of delaying action, vapers can expect the following changes to occur when these new regulations come into effect:
- Nicotine Strength. At the present time, the maximum allowable nicotine strength is 24 mg/ml. That is about to be lowered by the new regulatory scheme to 20 mg/ml. That loss of potency will come as a real blow to vapers who prefer that stronger nicotine concentration.
- Cartridge Size. Under the new rules, the maximum amount of liquid any cartridge will be allowed to contain is 2 ml. For vapers who like the increased portability and hassle reduction they receive from larger amounts of e-liquid in their devices, this is set to be one of the more frustrating changes.
- More Government Oversight. Industry participants will receive more government oversight, as manufacturers will now be required to provide officials with more specific product information that documents device features, ingredients, and other details.
- No More Bulk Liquid. While vapers can currently purchase large containers with their favorite e-liquids – something that is often done to save money, the new rules will limit the size of those containers to a mere 10 ml. Many vaping enthusiasts have expressed worries that this could eventually drive up the price of e-juice. At a minimum, it will prevent many lower income vapers from being able to save through bulk purchases.
- Possible Ban Process. As part of the new rules, a trigger mechanism is being put into place that could permit the EU to ban electronic cigarettes altogether. That process could be initiated if just three countries in the European Union move to have the organization get rid of the products.
- New safety Features. Many officials and much of the media have focused on the dangers these products might pose to children. They have been mis-characterized as gateway devices for children that might lead them to try tobacco later in life. They have been criticized for a lack of safety processes that could prevent children from getting their hands on the liquid nicotine and possibly ingesting it. The new regulations require that the devices, liquid, and packages all be childproofed in some way.
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Meanwhile, many are concerned that the EU’s decision to treat electronic cigarettes like tobacco products could lead to higher taxes if these devices are subjected to existing tobacco tax laws. Such a move could, in the view of many e-cig advocates, result in the type of price increases that would inhibit smokers from making the transition to these safer products.
At present, the duty taxes for a pack of tobacco cigarettes are at least 57% of the total price of the product, and the VAT adds another 20% to the cost. If those tax rules are assigned to electronic cigarettes (those devices are now only subject to the VAT), then costs would rise dramatically – more than doubling in some instances.
Since studies have suggested that vaping devices provide an important level of assistance for many smokers who are trying to quit, the end result of some of these changes could be that fewer people give up their smoking habits. That has led some advocates, particularly in the UK, to question the wisdom of these new regulations and any possible changes in the tax structure for vaping products. Studies have shown that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK alone have used these devices to escape their addiction to tobacco products. Only time will tell whether these new regulations deter other smokers from following suit.