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E-cigarette regulation

Our preferred approach to regulating Vapour Products (e-cigarettes)

The use of Vapour Products (e-cigarettes) that are manufactured to robust quality and safety standards is considered to be significantly less risky to health than smoking conventional cigarettes1. That’s why we believe e-cigarettes should not be regulated in the same way as cigarettes.

Many governments are still unsure how to regulate e-cigarettes. This was a key topic under discussion at the sixth conference of parties of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in 2014. We welcome its decision to establish an independent expert group to look at the growing weight of scientific evidence regarding e-cigarettes.

We think overly restrictive regulation, such as bans or excise taxes similar to those for regular cigarettes, could be counterproductive. It stifles growth and innovation, and prevents smokers becoming aware of and accessing them. Different products need to be regulated appropriately according to their risk profile.

We think regulations should reflect the growing acceptance among many health professionals2 that nicotine products such as Vapour Products (e-cigarettes) have huge potential to improve public health by helping people to cut down or quit smoking by choosing less risky alternatives.

We hope that the growing weight of evidence and arguments in support of tobacco harm reduction which are being made by the scientific community, public health campaigners and the tobacco industry will help to guide future decision making.

Health effects of long-term EC [e-cigarette] use are currently not known and a degree of risk may yet emerge. However, based on the data available regarding the toxicant content of EC liquid and aerosol, long-term use of EC, compared to smoking, is likely to be much less, if at all, harmful to users or bystanders."
Electronic cigarettes: review of use, content, safety, effects on smokers and potential for harm and benefit, P Hajek et. al., Addiction, July 2014.

Our preferred approach

Of course, we do not oppose regulation of Vapour Products (e-cigarettes). In fact, we are actively advocating for regulation.

We are advocating for regulation that has high consumer safety and product quality standards and restricts sales to over 18s, while enabling companies to freely innovate, and to distribute and market their products responsibly.

In 2015, we worked with the British Standards Institution and AFNOR, the French standards association, to develop new safety standards for Vapour Products. For now, they remain voluntary, but they have set an important benchmark for best practice globally.

We believe these principles should underpin Vapour Products (e-cigarettes) regulation:

  • Ensure product quality and consumer safety – quality standards need to be introduced, covering areas such as e-liquid content, emissions testing, labelling and child proofing.
  • Appropriate levels of innovation, distribution and marketing to encourage growth – these will ensure that products have consumer appeal, are widely and easily available and are marketed responsibly to adult smokers.
  • Taxation that enables innovation and affordability – Vapour Products (e-cigarettes) are different to conventional tobacco products and so the way they are taxed needs to take this into account. Excise tax will hinder their potential to benefit public health.
  • Protect under 18s – because nicotine is addictive, minimum age laws restricting sales to over 18s should be introduced and strictly enforced.

As part of our commitment to upholding high standards for all our products, regardless of the regulatory environment, we have adopted a robust approach to product stewardship, appropriate warnings on all our packaging and responsible marketing directed only at adult smokers – all of which we will continually monitor.

Our Vapour Products Marketing Principles provide a responsible and consistent approach to all of our marketing activities for this important category.

We need to recognise that there is a continuum of nicotine delivery products…It’s not the nicotine that kills half of all long-term smokers…it’s the delivery mechanism…We have to recognise some of these realities and figure out how they can impact regulatory policies."
Director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Centre for Tobacco Products, Protecting Public Health: FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products, Legacy Foundation Warner Series webinar, June 2014.

A call for ‘fit-for-purpose’ regulation

In May 2014, 53 international specialists in public health policy and nicotine science wrote to the World Health Organisation calling on it to embrace the potential of tobacco harm reduction products like e-cigarettes to reduce the burden of smoking-related disease.

They said the urge to control and suppress e-cigarettes as tobacco products should be resisted. Instead “regulation that is fit-for-purpose and designed to realise their potential should be championed."

They added: “We are deeply concerned that the classification of these products as tobacco… will do more harm than good, and obstruct efforts to meet the targets to reduce non-communicable disease we are all committed to."

[1] Analysis of refill liquids for electronic cigarettes Etter et al., Addiction, September 2013.
[2]  Electronic cigarettes: review of use, content, safety, effects on smokers and potential for harm and benefit, P Hajek et al., Addiction, July 2014.