Britain’s new vaping laws are now official, having taken effect on Sunday May 21. In addition to e-cigarettes, cigarettes are also subject to new laws, including standardized packaging that features extremely graphic health-risk warning labels. The goal of the new laws is to encourage smokers to quit and at the same time discourage non-smokers from picking up the habit. But as far as vaping is concerned, critics of the new vaping laws say that the new restrictions on vape products may actually discourage smokers from quitting by making vaping less appealing.
Most of the vaping laws involve the amount of nicotine in e-liquid and the amount of e-liquid in a cartridge or tank. The maximum amount of nicotine allowed in e-liquid as of May 21 is 20 mg. That’s down from a previous maximum of 24 mg. It is usually better for smokers of “regular” or “full flavor” cigarettes to start vaping at a high nicotine level to begin the process of weaning off of cigarettes. The 20 milligram maximum may not be enough to satisfy some smokers, and this could drive them back to cigarettes.
Tanks, cartridges and cartomizers are also being limited to a capacity of only 2 ml. This is a serious blow to many vapers who find refilling to be the biggest inconvenience of vaping. Vaping advocates worry that some smokers may decide that smoking is “easier” and give up any ideas about switching to vaping.
One of the biggest changes is that now e-liquid can only be sold in bottles containing a maximum of 10 ml. Most vapers are accustomed to having the option to buy much larger bottles, with 30 ml being the preferred choice of many.
The reasoning behind the new laws is that non-smokers might overdose or get hooked on nicotine when they weren’t before if they’re allowed to have access to large amounts of e-liquid. As is often the case, the new laws focus primarily on non smokers while ignoring what is in the best interest of people who already smoke and are trying to quit.
One thing that pushed these laws along was an undercover operation performed by a health organization that took it upon itself upon to see if law-abiding adults were perhaps choosing to vape when they don’t smoke to begin with. Upon discovering that vape shops were willing to do what the organization apparently saw as the unthinkable – sell products to adults without first interrogating them on their personal habits to find out if they were smokers or not – it blasted headlines across the UK crying foul. Most of the new vaping laws were already in the works prior to this sting operation, but it helped to push the idea that vaping is bad and somehow seemed to also suggest that vape sellers are dishonest.
There is, however, much more reason and common sense on the subject of vaping in the UK than there has been in the United States. The new British laws also ban some flavors of combustible cigarettes and have targeted menthol cigarettes to be gradually phased out. But e-liquid flavors were not touched by the new laws. A member of Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-smoking charity, answered questions about the phasing out of menthol cigarettes, but added that there are no plans to limit e-liquid flavors. She acknowledged the importance of continuing research on vaping and acknowledged the scientific view that vaping is safer than smoking: “People that use e-cigarettes are usually already smokers so if they use e-cigarettes, that is much better for them.”
But under the new laws, it is possible that smokers in Britain may now find that it is more expensive and more inconvenient to choose the safer alternative of vaping. Prices may go up, largely due to the smaller sized e-liquid bottles. Some British vape retailers plan to try to absorb the cost themselves, but only time will tell how the new laws will affect the vaping industry and smokers.