Mixing unflavoured e-liquid with flavour concentrates
Let’s make no bones about it, Totally Wicked has for some time produced and sold unflavoured e-liquid. We have done this so that people who don’t want the hassle of mixing their own e-liquid from diluents, nicotine base and flavourings can still enjoy mixing their own flavours. They can simply add whichever Gold Standard flavours they choose to the unflavoured e-liquid, give the bottle a shake, and fill their device.
When new regulations came along this year we had a careful look at our unflavoured range, and it was a fairly straight forward job to ensure they could be made compliant. No changes to the liquid, as it already used only pharma grade ingredients and was produced in our outstanding production facility. Changes to the packaging mirrored changes in the Totally Wicked Red Label range, and so were easy enough to make. And of course we had to carry out some emissions tests to ensure no toxins were released during the vapour formation process; to be honest we knew this couldn’t happen, but the regulations demanded that we made the test, so we did it, and we got the expected result.
Let’s move on to our Gold Standard flavour concentrates, as we know a lot of customers mix them with Red Label Unflavoured e-liquid. They are all sourced in the UK, and we only source from suppliers that have a good understanding of what is required of a “vape friendly” ingredient. It was with happy hearts that we worked through the notification process required by the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, gathering together and submitting ingredient and toxicity data. We were happy, not because it wasn’t hard work or a very considerable expense, it was most definitely both of those. We were happy because the compliance exercise backed up work that we were already doing as due diligence, and in actual fact in most ways added little, if anything, to what we already knew about the products we sell. They are suitable for inhalation, and without doubt many orders of magnitude safer than our chief competitor, combustible tobacco. We don’t treat a Gold Standard concentrate any differently from a “ready to vape” e-liquid in product stewardship terms – it wouldn’t seem right calling it Gold Standard if we did. That means that we have a good understanding of the ingredients, and that certain substances will never be present in our ranges of flavour concentrates or e-liquids, as there is too much doubt over their safety in long term use.
Are the regulations fair?
Totally Wicked fought the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the Tobacco Products Directive tooth and nail, not because of a belief there should be no regulation for our industry sector, but because we thought that regulation should be fair, proportionate, and should not unnecessarily remove safe products from the market. Without getting into any conspiracy theories, it is a fact that the ensuing regulations have given commercial advantage to the lesser products of tobacco-owned e-cigarette businesses, and will remove some “honest” competitor products from the market, like bottles of e-liquid bigger than 10ml, and tanks bigger than 2ml.
E-cigarettes and e-liquids deserved fairer treatment, but we don’t often get what we deserve, we get what we get. We got the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, and as a responsible, legitimate business Totally Wicked worked throughout 2016 to continue to trade legally, above board, and with reasonable visibility of our activities to those that are charged with ensuring there is compliance. We take this as a direct responsibility to our customers, because the greatest injustice we could do to these most important people is to fail to be able to supply them.
“Circumvention” of new regulations
I have heard a bit over the last 12 months about “circumvention” of new regulations. Some of the ideas are clever, some not so clever. Some are possibly legal, and some will definitely get people that carry them out into hot water. The one that has intrigued me most is the idea of selling a 10ml bottle of unflavoured 18mg/ml e-liquid as a “nicotine shot”, and alongside it sell a bottle of flavouring and diluent into which it can be poured to make up a bottle of e-liquid larger than the maximum allowed capacity of 10ml. It is potentially no different from the 10ml bottles of Red Label Unflavoured e-liquid that we have brought into compliance, but I say potentially, because when I see “circumvention”, I always get a slight whiff of “rat” at the same time.
I will never tell a customer where I think they should shop, and I will only give advice on what I think they should buy when I’m asked, and armed with sufficient information to make an informed judgement, but there is a very important question here: If an e-liquid supplier sees the need to sell e-liquid in “kit form” to circumvent regulations, what is in the bottle they have avoided notifying to the authorities, and why have they avoided notifying it? It might just be a convenient way of ensuring customers can buy 30ml of e-liquid in two bottles instead of three, but it could equally be a way of avoiding responsible product stewardship. Either way, it prevents the authorities from having visibility of a product on the market.
Acting responsibly is not always the easiest route, and is seldom one that carries a lot of kudos. There are times when it is the only reasonable way forward.