CHANGES to smoking laws are on the horizon - and vaping is not exempt.

On May 20, there will be a landmark change to the vaping industry in the UK.

Vaping will not be banned but some accuse the Government of doing all they can to discourage the habit without banning it outright.

Suppliers will need to comply with the regulation changes or potentially face up to 24 months in prison.

Changes include limiting the size and strength of e-cigarettes as well as banning certain ingredients, including colourings and caffeine.

Here are the seven main changes:

  • Vape tanks larger than 2ml will no longer be permitted
  • eLiquid bottles with a capacity over 10ml cannot be sold
  • The maximum nicotine strength available will be 20mg (2%)
  • E-cigarettes and e-liquids must be registered before they can be sold with the Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency
  • New labelling requirements
  • Censored advertising aligning with cigarette regulations
  • Child-resistant packaging for e-liquid products  

The regulations will affect anybody making or selling vaping products, whether a vaping shop retailer or an online store.   

Dan Marchant, of UK vaping retailer Vape Club, gives his view on the changes.

Effect on the vaping industry

Overall the introduction of the regulations is a very positive step.  Having strict regulations regarding the manufacture of products, emissions testing and so on, means that the quality of products on the market can be trusted and smokers looking to make the switch can be assured that the devices and the e-liquids they use are fit for purpose, and as safe as possible.

However, the regulations are not perfect and limitations on nicotine strength, bottle size and tank capacity have already changed the landscape significantly. Costs have increased a little but we believe these will fall back in line very quickly. Convenience has been restricted slightly but not enough to turn people away. The bottom line is that the vaping community will move past these barriers and continue to use a product which PHE state is 95% safer than smoking - and we hope that with the introduction of the new regulations many more smokers will feel more confident in taking that same step.

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How the changes will effect vapers

For current vapers, the effects range from the ‘mildly inconvenient’ to the ‘down right devastating’. There are still a number of ex-smokers, or people trying to make the switch fully who rely on nicotine strengths which are higher than the new limit of 20mg/ml. There is a genuine fear among this group of vapers that they may be forced to return to smoking if they cannot get access to e-liquid which will satisfy their cravings. This is of course a concern for current smokers who may look to vaping in the future too (particularly heavy smokers).

What do you think of the changes? Let us know below 

For others who are already using lower nicotine strengths, the effects vary. Somebody using a mouth to lung device might just find they have to buy 3 bottles of juice rather than just one 30ml bottle. This may also end up costing them slightly more as the costs involved in making 3 smaller bottles are greater than making one larger bottle. Somebody who is using sub-ohm devices and therefore gets through a lot more e-liquid in a day will find it far more inconvenient in terms of refilling their tank more often and having to carry multiple spare bottles of juice.

Imagine regulations came in which restricted cans of coke to 110ml. Every time you wanted a glass of coke you would have to get three little cans and open them all in to one glass. Then imagine that glass sizes were restricted to 22ml - you would have to refill your glass 15 times in order to drink the same amount of coke. Yup it’s not the end of the world but it is a right royal pain, and with no actual benefit why bother? (and there is no benefit - child resistant caps are a standard for toxic substances such as bleach or household cleaners, and the same are used for e-liquids, so really the bottle size is irrelevant).

It’s also rather hypocritical - they've developed guidance for a ‘leak-proof refilling mechanism’ because they don't like the idea of people getting e-liquid on their hands… but by limiting the tank size they are actually increasing the risk of spillage as the user is forced to refill far more frequently. You couldn't make it up!

6 changes to smoking and cigarette laws - everything you need to know

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What is the reaction of vaping retailers for the changes?

It's a mixed reaction really. I don’t believe that any retailer doesn't welcome the standards which regard ingredients used, emissions testing and product safety. However restrictions on bottle sizes, tank capacity and e-liquid strength have caused a lot of unnecessary headaches - particularly with the switch over period where you have to strike a balance of keeping customers happy, whilst preparing for the inevitable change. None of these measures provide any additional level of safety, efficacy or convenience - they are arbitrary rules, with no real world benefit, and simply make it less convenient for a smoker to make the switch.  

So we are in a strange middle ground where product standards will hopefully encourage more smokers to try vaping instead, but limitations on the products available (particularly nicotine strength) may make it harder for those smokers to successfully make the switch

One of the most controversial areas of the regulations are the restrictions on advertising. In a country where we pride ourselves on our tobacco control stance and is actually championing the vaping movement publicly, it seems crazy to restrict smokers from access to information which will potentially have huge benefits for them, their family and of course the NHS.

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What are the ways that the industry is adapting to these changes?

E-liquid bottles have already changed over to the 10ml limit and are no longer being produced in strengths higher than 20mg/ml, tanks have reduced to a 2ml capacity, and retailers are busy selling off the last of their non-compliant stock before May 20. Testing has already been carried out and product submissions made to the EU portal. Basically the industry is complying as quickly as it can. Our concern is simply to be able to consistently provide quality products to vapers throughout the transition and beyond.  

However as much as we will work with the regulations, behind the scenes we are still doing everything we can to ensure that the UK is able to revise the regulations as soon as possible (due to Brexit and so on) and maintain its position as the leading global voice in the vape debate.  If we lead by example, other countries will follow. It's already happening thanks to the excellent reports by Public Health England and Cancer Research UK.

We are looking at revising the limits on bottle size, tank capacity, nicotine strength and advertising rules as well as tightening up standards for testing, materials and ingredients used, and creating standardised methodologies and best practices which can become industry standards. The UK is looking to mature the industry and develop the sector to its fullest potential. We hope that one day tobacco cigarettes will be a thing of the past.

Changes to vaping and e-cigarette laws

"What do you think of the changes to vaping laws, coming into force on May 20? Do you smoke e-cigarettes? Are you a former tobacco smoker who now vapes? Let us know. "

We asked for your responses - this is what you sent.

Anthony lane

What is your response?
I've been vaping for 15 months. I'm on 6mgs as I found higher strengths too strong. I smoked roll ups for over 50 years. I found I had coped, upon giving up, smoking and it has not got worse since vaping.

Community contributor

What is your response?
Smoked cigarettes for 35 years about 70 grams of tabacco a week changed to vaping about 6 weeks ago and these laws are a joke really the only entity they are trying to protect is big tabacco. Whoever said just stop smoking obviously wasnt a smoker and vaping certainly replaces the habit while you reduce your nicotine intake which you can be assured is just nicotine and coconut oil nothing extra added by the big tabacco companies which they didnt write on the pack but a quick internet seach will reveal.

Frederick Davies

What is your response?
Was a 60 a day smoker then one day decided it was costing me a fortune, had tried giving up in the past but lasted approx 4 weeks. Before I started again, decided to give vaping a go in August 2013. Started on 18mg liquids reduced to 10mg by Dec 13 and by March 2014 gave up the vaping altogether. Have been smoke and vape free ever since.

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