It is generally agreed by the UK Government, our National Health Service and Public Health England, that vaping is not as bad for you as smoking tobacco. A study from the University of Dundee, published in November 2019 and funded by the British Heart Foundation, suggests that within just one month of switching tobacco for electronic cigarettes, measures of blood vessel health, including blood pressure and stiffness of arteries, had started to improve*.
Despite current advertising laws, which forbids vape companies to state that vaping is less harmful than tobacco smoking, there is a move by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping (APPGV) to announce publicly that vaping is not as risky to our health as is smoking. In 2018, following updated safety information about vaping, MPs on both sides of the House of Commons called on the government to allow e-cigarettes to be available via the NHS on prescription. As of February 2021, there are no medicinally licensed nicotine vaping products in the UK.
The legal restrictions that govern vaping mostly relate to the safe production and promotion of the product. Regulations such as these are at the heart of government wanting to ensure vapers and the general public are not exposed to unnecessary risks.
Non-nicotine containing vaping products fall under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, enforced by local trading standards.
Nicotine-containing vaping products are regulated more stringently through the revised European Union Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) (TPD), translated into UK law through the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR):
“In a nutshell, Article 20 of the EUTPR lays down the following rules for e-cigarettes sold as consumer products within the EU:
- Safety and quality requirements for e-cigarettes The Directive sets a maximum nicotine concentration and volume for cartridges, tanks and nicotine liquid containers. E-cigarettes should be child-resistant and tamper evident and have a mechanism that allows refilling without spillage to protect consumers. E-cigarette ingredients must be of high purity and e-cigarettes should deliver the same amount of nicotine when puffed at the same strength and duration. Manufacturers and importers must notify all products they place on the EU market through a standardised electronic format.
- Packaging and labelling rules for e-cigarettes Health warnings for e-cigarettes advising consumers that they contain nicotine and should not be used by non-smokers are mandatory. Packaging must also include a list of ingredients contained in the product, information on the product’s nicotine content, and a leaflet with instructions for use and information on adverse effects, risk groups, addictiveness and toxicity. Promotional elements are not allowed on e-cigarette packaging, and cross-border advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes is prohibited.
- Monitoring and reporting of developments related to e-cigarettes The Directive lays down monitoring and reporting requirements for manufacturers and importers, EU countries and the Commission.
- Implementing Legislation In order to facilitate the implementation of Article 20 of the Directive, the European Commission adopted two implementing Acts and a Commission report related to e-cigarettes” **
So as part of the above directives, which came into effect in 2017, the maximum nicotine content of a liquid allowed within the UK is 20 mg/ml, and bottles may not contain more than 10ml of liquid and must be child-proof and tamper evident.
Likewise, atomisers sold within the country cannot have a capacity of more than 2ml. In addition, certain additives within flavourings/liquids are banned (such as diacetyl, caffeine, taurine and some colourings).
Finally, all e-cigarettes and liquids sold within the UK must be registered with UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) by their respective manufacturers before they can be legally sold. This stringent scrutineering and approval process takes at least six months prior to making them available to the public.
The rules are regularly monitored and reviewed with the UK government has committing to review again by May 2021.
Selling vaping products to anyone under 18 is prohibited and so is buying vaping products for anyone under 18.
**Source: House of Commons Library. BRIEFING PAPER Number 7001, 25 June 2019 Advertising: vaping and e-cigarettes By Lorraine Conway
Additional information can be found at Public Health England