As a country we have had to come to terms with the fact that the vaping market in Europe will always have the TPD looming over it. Although the TPD is deemed harsh, should we actually feel lucky to have these guidelines?
If you don’t know, the FDA regulations in the USA come into effect on the 8th of August and they are vastly different to the TPD. From the 8th only vaping products that are already on sale will be allowed to be sold for the next two years!
After the two years that the FDA gave manufacturers to become compliant, only FDA compliant products will be allowed to be sold in the US, at a huge cost. Vape shops won’t even be allowed to allow customers to sample e-liquid, oh and some products have to state that they contain tobacco, even though they don’t!
But why are these two sets of e-cig regulations so vastly different?
Within Europe all member states of the European Union (for that read countries and there are 28), e-cigarettes now have to adhere to certain standards, i.e. nicotine levels have an upper limit of 20mg/ml, e-liquid tanks are to be no larger than 2ml, advertising has been drastically reduced and there is a 6 month wait to market for new products. Yes, compliance will be costly, but it will not be prohibitive. Some member states such as Finland have decided to make their regulations far worse than the TPD and have banned online sales, but generally the European Union (EU) member states that have started implementing the TPD seem to be standing by the letter of the law.
So why do Europe have the TPD and the USA have the FDA killing off the market in two years time?
Because of people power and people action, and without blowing our own trumpet – TW’s court case against the European Union’s TPD – helped to publicise the plight of vaping to places it might not have otherwise been noticed.
The EU works differently to the US, though on the face of it there are some similarities if you imagine the EU acting at the Federal level, and member states acting at State level.
EU vapers managed to turn around legislation that began in 2013 as severe medical regulations and ended up with something that will be survivable.
This was achieved because us Vapers from Europe united, we organised, we wrote, we visited, we made noise – but the most important thing we did – we educated.
THE most effective tool was individual letters to Members of Parliament stating how vaping has changed lives. With a simple letter we educated the regulators on a personal, emotional and factual level. And then these letters were followed up by visits, so that the ‘letter’ became a real person. MP’s in the UK were surprised to receive hundreds, and sometimes thousands of letters from their constituents explaining how important vaping is in the move away from tobacco.
Visits to Members of the European Parliament (MEP) were organised to show that vaping is not some arbitrary ‘thing’ that smokers do, we showed that vaping helps people move away from a deadly habit.
This action by vapers from all across the EU made MEP’s realise that the proposed medical regulations were wrong, resulting in quite a few MEPs standing up and taking up the cause of vaping.
There were sadly some shady shenanigans at the end, behind closed doors.
Even the EU isn’t immune from Tobacco and Pharmaceutical lobbying – but essentially vapers uniting and taking action is what made the difference.
Summits were organised; the E-cig Summit in London, the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw to name a few. These summits brought together scientists and tobacco control people and e-cigarettes were discussed – again – the education comes back into play, Scientists talked about what they found, tobacco control voiced their fears, vapers were there too and the three different groups communicated and debated.
Important to note as well, tobacco control did their own research and were not afraid to publish findings that went against their fears – i.e. teens and vaping, and finding that vaping does NOT lead to smoking,
Crucially, vaping companies and manufacturers were very much left OUT of this. And at the start this was vital – no vested interests or corporate lobbying could be called out, though some against e-cigarettes did try.
Then, there was Public Health England (PHE).
UK vapers connected with people in tobacco control and public health, and began to forge relationships. We began to educate, to explain, to answer questions, go to select committees – sit and be grilled – provide briefings, show hardware etc, and take the time to explain.
And this went on relentlessly for several years. It meant sending many letters, many briefings, and it also meant countering the junk science, of which sadly there is a lot, and always despairingly ramped up by the media.
The UK has been very fortunate in that PHE and the Royal College of Physicians both sat up and listened, they did their own investigations and came out with the conclusion they have;
E-cigs are essentially 95% less harmful than tobacco. The result? The UK is now leading the way in encouraging smokers to switch to vaping and regard e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool. It looks like France might follow this lead too.
However, in the USA there is a completely different mountain to climb than the TPD.
Vapers in Europe crucially had time to change the legislation as it went through the parliamentary process. We had time to write and organise, and we knew what we were up against from the start, as the draft TPD was public for all to see.
That has not been the case in the USA. The FDA has behaved as an autocratic institution, ignoring advice and information and has ruled for the FDA’s benefit, not for the smoker/vaper. Here they are presented with rules, as fait accompli, that they now have the arduous task of changing, and they have to face massive corporate lobbying and some very closed minds along the way.
Due to this the courts may be the only way that they can get FDA’s e-cigarette regulations changed, as the law deals only with what is legal or illegal, not what is right or wrong.