Most analysts are unsurprised to see the wide variety of approaches different nations around the world are taking when it comes to regulating and dealing with the e-cigarette industry. After all, the world is a big and diverse place, and no one would really expect a couple hundred widely-differing countries to share a common vision on an issue like this. When it comes to Europe, however, the opposite is true. Since the creation of the European Union, many observers have grown accustomed to the notion that all EU member states would basically deal with concerns like this in a like-minded fashion.
To that point, the Europeans have come up with a set of policies for e-cigarettes, which they have dubbed the EU Tobacco Products Directive. That should have made the regulation and management of this industry a fairly routine matter for most EU nations. It has not. So, what are the latest European news from European parliament concerning the TPD and electronic cigarettes? To put it mildly, there’s a bit of chaos and uncertainty in play.
The TPD was scheduled to be fully implemented throughout the EU by May 20, 2016. With just four months to go until the deadline, however, more than a third of member states have not even started the necessary legislative work required for completing that implementation. That has some observers concerned that a number of European states will miss the deadline altogether.
As of now, there are only three EU members that have actually completed the legislative process and implemented the Directive: Lithuania, Portugal, and the Netherlands. In the countries that have started legislating so that they can begin the required implementation on time, there have been widespread delays in the process. Those delays have compressed the time between possible passage of the required laws and effective implementation. And that is going to make it difficult for many electronic cigarette manufacturers to meet the new legal requirements.
Part of the reason things have moved so slowly in so many countries has to do with the limited nature of the TPD, and the desire of some EU countries to adopt even more involved standards. For example, the Tobacco Products Directive has little to say about such matters as the sale of electronic cigarette products to minors, taxation considerations, and vaping enthusiasts’ ability to use their products in public. Many of the countries involved in this process care deeply about these issues.
As a result, the legislative process has been slowed in some countries by their attempt to include these other concerns within the laws they are crafting for the TPD. As one might expect, this has led to increased debate as different interests compete to determine the final legislative product. So, while it might have been fairly simple for any of these countries to quickly pass the laws needed for TPD compliance, that process was complicated by the addition of other e-cig issues. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been keeping a close eye on these regulations as they are following close behind with the implementation of their own legislation for the whole of the United States, you can read more about their regulations here.
In some EU countries such as the United Kingdom, much of the internal debate focused on achieving the right balance with respect to how these products would be regulated. The UK government has recently released statements addressing a variety of e-cig regulation concerns, and gives every indication that the nation is looking to achieve a light regulatory touch so as to not create unnecessary hardships for the industry.
So, for example, the UK has indicated that it will enact a grace period during which non-compliant products can still be sold – to give the industry time to come into compliance with TPD requirements. The nation also intends to allow nicotine electronic cigarettes to be sold across borders to consumers in the United Kingdom, though foreign companies will have to register and designate someone to provide regulatory compliance verification to the authorities. There will also have to be warnings placed upon the packages containing these devices. Finally, nicotine-free e-cigs will remain outside of these new restrictions.
One fact worthy of note is that the industry appears to have had some sway in limiting the negative impact that these regulations could have had were they of the more restrictive variety. According to statistics provided by the UK government, the industry responses during the public consultation period amounted to roughly eight percent of all responses received.
In the UK, as in much of Europe, the discretion exercised in the legislative process is sure to create a situation in which TPD implementation varies from nation to nation. Some things, however, will remain constant. After all, the TPD places strict restrictions on things like nicotine concentration, and the EU members have no ability to ignore those provisions. The good news is that most member states do not appear to be moving in the direction of even greater restrictions, and that should come as some small comfort to the vaping industry.