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New EU regulations may end ‘open systems’

June 15, 2020

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Retailers may have further limits on the flavours and ingredients of the vaping products they stock, with open systems as a whole at risk. This is the warning by a leading tobacco harm reduction expert, as a review of the EUTPDII regulations nears.

The EUTPDII review is due to take place in 2021 and could recommend a third directive which could have huge implications for the UK vaping market. Clive Bates, a former senior civil servant and tobacco harm reduction expert, described the measures that could be included, and why the UK would be affected despite Brexit, in a Q&A with the industry hosted by the New Nicotine Alliance on 4 June.

Discussing future regulation, Bates said: “There is a risk to flavoured vapes and there could be blacklists of ingredients, or even white lists where only a set of agreed ingredients could be included. It would be harder for small businesses and I think it would be harder to justify open systems.”

While previous tobacco directives have focused on combustible tobacco, Bates believes that there could now be a firm approach towards the vaping industry after EU politicians “picked up some of the moral panic from across the Atlantic”. The US vape market was rocked in 2019 by the EVALI lung disease caused by counterfeit and black-market cannabis vape products and reports of a teen vaping “epidemic”.

“The [anti-vape] lobbyists will be better organised against vaping. They have an agenda that is more coherent than it was,” Bates warned.

While the UK has now formerly left the EU and the current transition period will have ended by 2021, the effect of EU law will still have a significant effect on the UK sector, he added: “The EU is a superpower and what it decides has an effect everywhere.”

With maintaining UK-EU trade still vital to the UK economy, Bates said that the UK will likely choose any divergence with EU regulation carefully.

“Firstly, it there could be an agreement to harmonise regulations to ease frictions on trade. More likely, the UK will have discretion on new regulations but whether it will choose to exercise that discretion is another thing. The UK wants to show it is out [of the European Union] but it doesn’t want to bear the costs.”

Bates doubts whether vaping is an area where the UK will be willing to devote political capital. “I’m not sure it will want to choose that as a hill to die on,” he said.

The full hour-long discussion is available on YouTube and on the New Nicotine Alliance’s website.