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EU Tobacco Directive - E-Liquid to be banned ?

It is looking increasingly likely that e-liquid sales will be banned in the forthcoming EU Tobacco Directive rewrite.

A figure of 4mg/ml nicotine strength has been quoted as the upper limit for EU sales, and because EU law is UK law, this means it will be enforced in the UK. There are two reasons for this:

1. EU law is enforced more strictly in the UK than anywhere else. In many countries, they take a laissez-faire attitude to EU regulations and basically ignore them. This applies the further south you go, as you may well know if you travel widely. However the UK takes the opposite view and regards EU law as written in stone. The same might occasionally be said about Germany, but many would say the UK enforces EU law more strictly than any other country.

2. The MHRA is the pharmaceutical industry's legal arm within government, and will enforce this regulation with an iron fist.

  • Why ban e-liquid?

The reason is simple: it is the easiest ban to enforce that guarantees to make e-cigarettes useless. A ban on the hardware might well fall quickly on appeal at the EU High Court, but trying to overturn a ban on nicotine liquid may take a great deal of time and money, and may ultimately fail.

Such a ban is entirely corruption-based since it is directly opposed to the best interests of public health: it removes consumers' rights to safer tobacco-like consumption modes that are proven successful. The only alternatives will be pharma products that are expensive and proven unsuccessful (they have a 95% failure rate when averaged out). Therefore it can be seen that a ban on e-cigarettes (or a core component such as the refill liquid) must have been obtained by bribery. This comes as no surprise as we have recently seen the financial motives that EU health committee members are driven by.

  • What is the effect of such a ban?

There will be several effects, among which are:

1. The single biggest threat to public health ever created by government will come into effect. Millions of e-cigarette users in Europe (there are over 500,000 just in the UK) will be driven back to smoking, or to buy their supplies on the black market.

2. The pharmaceutical and tobacco industries will be protected from a serious threat to their incomes.

3. Government employees in the EU and UK whose jobs would have been threatened by falling pharma drug sales and falling treatment levels for sick and dying smokers, and also those employed in the useless smoking cessation services [1], will now have security of employment.

4. Prices of e-cigarette supplies will rise as vendors will either have to close up shop or go offshore. They may also try to fight the ban at law, which means huge expenditure and thus higher prices.

5. The MHRA will have a license to visit vendors, threaten staff, and even impound stocks at vendor's premises on the pretext of enforcing the law (even where no nicotine-containing liquids are sold). This applies to both high street vendors and web-based vendors with a UK office or UK-hosted website. If premises are in EU countries or websites are hosted in EU countries, the MHRA will ask colleagues in those countries to carry out the enforcement action.

6. Trading Standards will be encouraged to take similar action.

7. Legitimate tax income will be removed from the UK.

8. The health impact of non-UK tested liquids also needs to be taken into account. Currently, we know that no e-liquid sold in the UK is contaminated (as it is fully regulated by Trading Standards, who test and analyse it). That safety system will now cease.

  • How can E-Cigarette vendors survive?

They have several options:

1. Sell zero-nic liquid only.

2. Sell zero-nic and 4mg strength liquid. This is lower than even the lowest usual current strength of 6mg/ml and is useless for 99% of consumers.

3. Cease all e-liquid sales. This may not be a practical consideration as e-liquid has the highest mark-up of any product and in effect keeps other prices down.

4. Move offshore, or at least move the e-liquid sales side offshore: a. Move operations to a non-EU country and carry on as usual. Ensure that no UK office or website is involved in sales of real e-liquid. If the MHRA can prove that e-liquid sales originate from a UK office they will prosecute you, and you can expect this to be to the full extent of the law as this is what their paymasters will demand.
b. Separate the hardware and e-liquid sales in some way. Ensure that refills are sold via an offshore partner and are handled by an offshore website (outside the EU).

Supplies will still be able to be posted in at first, although some may be stopped and seized by customs. The MHRA will attempt to progressively tighten the customs controls for inbound parcels until they can be sure of stopping most traffic. They have already carried out a pilot project to demonstrate that they can indeed do this. You can be assured that postage of e-liquids will become progressively more difficult as very large 'benefits' will be paid to ensure this. The pharmaceutical industry has an unlimited amount of money to resolve problems.

  • What should consumers do?

Wake up and start to fight for your rights. The murderous, corrupt officials in government need to be stopped one way or another. Stop expecting governments and especially the EU to protect public health and consumer's rights; they work for the highest bidder. The EU already kills thousands of EU citizens every year by means of the Snus ban. Eventually that figure will rise to at least 10% of all smoking deaths (since all these numbers were reduced by 45% in Sweden). 

If an e-cigarette ban stays in place (or a ban that makes e-cigarettes worthless in practice) then the figure will rise to approximately 60% of all smoking deaths being attributable to the EU (as it is expected that eventually 60% of smokers would have switched to Snus or e-cigarettes).

The EU is proven to ignore public health in favour of commercial interests. If you don't think this is right, then you need to get political. Or just help support your local smuggler. We think a political solution is preferable to supporting a black market.

  • A historic moment

This will probably mark the first time in history that the public has had to go to the black market to buy healthier products as a result of government forcing them to choose the most dangerous products.

Note that NRTs are not a viable choice, they have a 95% to 98% failure rate, and are essentially useless. At least 95% of smokers who quit using NRTs are smoking again after 20 months, and after 3 years the failure rate approaches 99%.

Update: timescale
Yesterday it wasn't clear what the implementation route and timescale was likely to be. Now we know that it looks as if the Directive will need to be approved by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament, and that the new European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs, Tonio Borg, hopes to achieve this before June 2014 when Parliament membership changes. This would mean the changes may come into effect in 2015.* 

So it looks as if we may have two years to fight this - maybe to mid-2014. The final part of the fight will be to convince MEPs to vote it out, if the Directive makes it as far as the vote in Parliament. Once it is adopted by vote then that's it. Fighting this death sentence for thousands of people will be all about noise and money; consumers need to do their part and make the noise.

* Unless there is a major drive against corruption in the EU government, or the UK manages to renegotiate some membership issues, or the UK leaves the EU, or the European e-cigarette trade funds a legal challenge, or EU MEPs throw the Directive out after being refused a part of the money pot.

[1] The term 'useless' is used correctly since the NHS Services reduce smoking prevalence in the UK by an estimated 0.001% per annum or less; cf Sweden where the current reduction in smoking prevalence (due to Snus) totals 45% - only about 8% or 9% of Swedish men now smoke.

In practice, THR solutions (with an invisible epidemiological effect on health and thus statistically-speaking harmless) can reduce smoking prevalence by about 1% per annum, versus the state's success rate of, at best, 0.001% per annum. In other words THR is at least 1,000 times (and possibly up to 10,000 times) more successful than smoking cessation services, and costs the State zero.

Unfortunately no one in government receives any 'benefits' from THR, though; pharma and tobacco pay much better.