The gentleman in the picture is Dr. Tonio Borg. He’s a Maltese national with a doctorate in law and he became the EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy following the recent resignation of the previous incumbent John Dalli.
By all accounts, Tonio seems to be a competent politician with a track record for delivering, in fact in the 19th December 2012 press release issued by the EU he is quoted as saying “We delivered! The European Commission had promised a proposal on tobacco products by the end of 2012, and that’s what I’m presenting today to Health ministers and the European Parliament”.
And give him his due, he certainly did deliver, catching most of us by surprise. Unfortunately, the content of the proposal makes grim reading for smokers and electronic cigarette users alike. The full text of the proposals can be seen by clicking here.
As expected (albeit a bit quicker than anticipated) the proposals contain recommendations to change the packaging of cigarettes, but there is some pretty scary stuff in there too – including a proposal to ban flavouring of tobacco products (e.g. menthol cigarettes) and most relevant to this blogger – some proposed restrictions on nicotine containing e-liquid for use in electronic cigarettes.
The proposal must now be presented to the European Parliament and Council where various amendments may be considered before it is ultimately passed as EU law. The preliminary reading of the proposal is scheduled for 25th February 2013 in Brussels, then it could take a year or so to introduce legislation.
Currently, if passed as is the proposal will mean that only e-liquid no greater than 4mg/ml nicotine concentration will be available freely on the open market as we currently enjoy. The precise wording is as follows:
The proposal stipulates that NCP [Nicotine Containing Products] that either have a nicotine level exceeding 2 mg, a nicotine concentration exceeding 4 mg per ml or whose intended use results in a mean maximum peak plasma concentration exceeding 4 ng per ml may be placed on the market only if they have been authorised as medicinal products on the basis of their quality, safety and efficacy, and with a positive risk/benefit balance. NCP with nicotine levels below this threshold can be sold as consumer products provided they feature an adapted health warning. The nicotine threshold identified in this proposal has been established by considering the nicotine content of medicinal products (Nicotine Replacement Therapies, NRTs) for smoking cessation which have already received a market authorisation under the medicinal products’ legislation.
In essence, the above means that should the proposals be accepted into law, juice above 4mg / ml in nicotine content will become illegal if it does not have (in the case of the UK) a Marketing Authorisation (MA) from the MHRA, and even liquid below this threshold may only be sold in “doses” of up to 2mg. This probably means that 0.5ml cartomisers of 4mg juice will be the maximum quantities that may be freely purchased.
At a time when recently acquired BAT investment CN Creative (Intellicig to you and I) are rumoured to be seeking a MA for juice that is 45mg/ml in strength, and most vapers that I know are using anything between 6mg and 45mg per ml (according to a few vendors I have spoken to, 18 – 24mg seems to be the biggest selling) – this 4mg per ml level is patently ridiculous.
So, fair enough, that means that if the average electronic cigarette user wants to continue to vape the same strength of e-liquid they do today, they will need to purchase the regulated stuff going forwards – what’s the problem with that? Well, there are a number of problems with that. Inevitably, it will result in a greatly restricted choice of juice strength and flavours given the prohibitive cost of achieving a MA. The market for juice over 4mg/ml will effectively be sewn up by those who can afford to get an MA (i.e. Big Tobacco and potentially Big Pharma) and it’s not likely that they will be prepared to invest the hundreds of thousands of pounds necessary to licence juice strengths and flavours that will not yield a return. Expect a standard “tobacco” flavour, and if we’re really lucky a “menthol” too!
One Lib-Dem politician is currently advising her constituents that juice may only be available via prescription from your doctor, presumably in the measured “doses” or capsules discussed in the proposals. I’d be prepared to bet that these capsule / cartomisers won’t have a 510 thread though, so expect your hardware of choice to be rendered useless if this comes to pass.
The proposals appear to fly in the face of evidence presented by leading scientists and experts who promote the principle of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR), including Clive Bates (former Director of ASH UK), Prof. Gerry Stimson and Prof. Carl Phillips. In fact, they seem to fail to acknowledge the validity of THR as a viable alternative to the traditional “Quit or Die” message at any level.
So, it seems that if we are to avoid this forthcoming ban / restriction on our pastime, we need to act and we need to act now!
I would encourage anybody reading this blog to also read Clive Bates’ excellent article on what’s happening and what action YOU can take and follow the excellent advice he gives. If you fail to make your voice heard, then these proposals will become law (the process is well underway) which would be an absolute travesty.
It’s time to contact your MP / MEPs and demand to know from them what their stance is and what action they will be taking to ensure that this uninformed, highly dangerous proposal is not passed into EU law. We must be heard in numbers – we cannot rely on others to represent us this time.
Use the links below to identify your MP and MEP then contact them. Even better, make an appointment to go and see them and explain what electronic cigarettes mean to you. Tell them your own story and let them know what the likely consequences of the proposed ban will mean to you as an individual.
These two excellent sites will help you to identify and contact your repsentatives in teh UK and EU parliaments:
Don’t wait until it’s too late!