Should The Rules On E-Cigarettes Be Relaxed?

A report on e-cigarettes, by the science and technology MPs' committee was recently heard in parliament which said e-cigarettes should be deregulated and promoted to help smokers.

There have been mixed reactions to some of the suggestions, even within the e-cigarette industry, with many people noting that at least some of these regulations were implemented for a reason.

But other suggestions have been more widely praised as a way to help even more people with e-cigarettes.

So should the e-cigarette industry revert back to before there was any oversight?


E-Cigarettes Vs. Vapourisers

But before we continue we need to get some of the terminology explained, as there are two different types of e-cigarettes on the market at the moment, the e-cigarette and the vapouriser (and a new device which is trying to emulate e-cigarettes called heat not burn cigarettes). Both of these styles of e-cigarettes will be affected differently if these suggestions came to pass.

It can be a confusing as the term “E-cigarettes” is used to describe any device that heats liquid with nicotine in to produce vapour.

For those who aren't sure of the difference between the two, E-Cigarettes (otherwise known as cig-a-likes) are designed to look and feel like a cigarette. They come with refills that are pre-filled with e-liquid and the equipment is a fixed voltage and ready to use. That is what we mainly sell here at SMOKO.

The advantages of pre-filled is that all the liquid is measured and tested to ensure it is up to standard before it goes into the refill and cannot be changed or modified. The batteries are also fixed as well, so no modifications can be made nor can you change the voltage. The vapour that comes out of an e-cigarette is designed to replicate the amount of smoke from a cigarette, to help it feel more realistic and help smokers make the switch.

Meanwhile vapourisers are more customisable, with variable voltage batteries (to heat the liquid more or less), lots of replaceable parts and you pour your own e-liquid. Due to the larger voltage on many vapourisers, these normally produce a much larger amount of vapour. If you see someone with a cloud of vapour around them, and they're holding a large box, that's a vapouriser.

Heat-Not-Burn Cigarettes

Heat-not-burn might be a new term to many out there, but one you will probably hear about in the coming years.

Basically, it’s the cigarette’s industry way of having their cake and eating it too. It is a device that still uses tobacco, but heats the tobacco up instead of burning it, so they claim it technically produces vapour and not smoke.

Although a spokesman for Phillip Morris did try and say that this would be completely different to smoking, and moving to their heat not burn devices would be same as quitting, it seems to be close enough to cause concern at least.


Perhaps more concerning though is that cigarette companies are trying to lump their Heat Not Burn product in with e-cigarettes in order to prosper by the goodwill created by companies like SMOKO.

Here at SMOKO we do not consider these devices to be anything like e-cigarettes, as they still use tobacco. Though turning the tobacco into vapour may or may not lower the risk a bit, there are still thousands of chemicals in tobacco (such as cyanide and arsenic) which can be released from tobacco even if you vapourise it.

The Regulation – What is it?

One of the main points of the report was deregulation on e-cigarettes. But what are the laws around e-cigarettes?

The TPD (Tobacco Products Directive) are the EU laws that came into effect in May 2016 to further increase the rules on cigarettes and created some regulations for all e-cigarettes. For a more in-depth description read our blog here.

The TPD was implemented to protect consumers by regulating e-cigarettes in several key ways:

1. The maximum amount of nicotine in any e-liquid to 2.0%
2. All e-liquids containing nicotine must be 3rd party tested ensure they were safe
3. Required e-cigarettes to deliver consistent nicotine in the vapour
4. Restrict the amount of e-liquid that can be sold to 10ml
5. Ensure packaging is childproof
6. Restrict the sale of E-Cigarettes to consumers who are 18 years old+
7. Restrict the advertising for e-cigarettes

Although the TPD was costly to SMOKO, we agreed that it was needed, as it brought some much-needed supervision to the wild west of the e-cigarette industry.

What the Report Suggests

The BBC provided a breakdown of the suggestions the committee’s report had, saying:

1. greater freedom for industry to advertise e-cigarettes
2. relaxing of regulations and tax duties on e-cigarettes and e-liquids to reflect their relative health benefits
3. an annual review of the health effects of e-cigarettes, as well as heat-not-burn products
4. a debate on vaping in public spaces, such as on public transport and in offices
5. e-cigarettes licensed as medical devices and to be available on prescription
6. a rethink on limits on refill strengths and tank sizes

On the surface these all look good, but some of these suggestions want to repeal laws that were placed for a good reason.

The Good

First though let’s take a look at the parts of this report that will help the industry and the users.

Relaxing Tax Duties On E-Cigarettes.

This would be a boon for the e-cigarette industry, it will make importing and exporting much cheaper and (hopefully) encourage companies to grow and reach even more smokers in the UK.

It will also help bolster international trade, as products that are made it the UK (like all our liquids are) are sought after all around the world. This could be a great way to encourage international smokers to try and make the switch.

An Annual Review Of The Health Effects Of E-Cigarettes, As Well As Heat-Not-Burn Products

This would also benefit e-cigarette usage, as whenever there is a large-scale study on e-cigarettes they always find that e-cigarettes are much better than cigarettes.

According to Public Health England, e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than cigarettes. They have less than 1% of the carcinogens than a cigarette, they produce no 2nd hand smoke and are extremely effective at helping people get away from cigarettes.

We believe the popularity of E-Cigarettes would flourish under more study, as they will continue to prove they are much better for you than cigarettes and provide even more evidence for any smoker who wants to make the switch.

We also support this part of the report as it would apply to heat-not-burn products as well. It’s important the regulators study the use and impact of these products as there has been little independent research as of yet and the studies have been completed don’t paint a great picture. In a study sponsored by Cancer Research UK they found that heat not burn devices contained a lot more carcinogens than any other type of e-cigarette.

The Maybe

Some of the suggestions by the committee might be a good idea but should be treated with caution.

E-Cigarettes Licensed As Medical Devices

Though millions of people have made the switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes on their own, there are still over 9 million adults who are clinging to cigarettes. Having an e-cigarette as an official option for the NHS would give a lot more people the chance to try e-cigarettes.

This would provide further validation that e-cigarettes are a viable alternative to smoking and could potentially help a lot of people.

However if e-cigarettes went onto the NHS it may not be the best e-cigarette, but rather the e-cigarette which had the most money to pay for the marketing, testing and distribution at the lowest price.

This means that instead of flavour or effectiveness, it would be how much money the e-cigarette company could pour into its bid that decided it.

One of the joys of e-cigarettes is the wide choice of flavours, strengths and styles to suit your taste. It seems doubtful that the NHS would be willing to stock a wide selection of e-cigarettes, and so one of the most compelling reasons to make the switch would be stripped away.

The cost of these e-cigarettes would also be passed onto the tax payer as well, which seems a unfair.

At the moment, e-cigarettes are available in specialist shops like SMOKO, in all grocery, convenience and petrol stations. So if someone can afford to spent £10 a day on cigarettes, then they can definitely afford e-cigarettes, which can cost as little as £1.50 a day!


A debate on vaping in public spaces

This point applies much more to the big vapourisers (which produce large amount of vapour then the smaller e-cigs) as they are far more noticeable then e-cigarettes like SMOKO, and that is what is worrying about the idea of a debate. If it is an informed debate than that would be great, but that might be doubtful.

In theory vaping in public places shouldn't be an issue. One of the great advantages of e-cigarettes is they can be used almost anywhere as they don’t produce 2nd hand smoke. And with SMOKO and e-cigarettes like them the vapour produced is minimal nor obtrusive. The same cannot be said for the large vapourisers.


For the majority of the public, the image of a huge plume of vapour is the first image they think of when they hear e-cigarettes, as they are the most visible. And although these big vapourisers are a minority, they are the most noticeable. Many brands of e-cigarettes like SMOKO are designed to be discreet, so of course no-one notices when people use them!


We always suggest using discretion when using SMOKO and to try and be polite to everyone around you. Though e-cig vapour doesn’t really smell and doesn’t hurt anyone, people might not like it and find it annoying. Just because vapour won’t affect you, doesn’t mean that you want to be surrounded by massive clouds of it when you are trying to work, taking the bus.

A debate on this subject could go either way depending on if people could tell the difference between e-cigarettes and vapourisers.

If people do know the difference then talking about how (mainly) vapouriser users could dial back the vapour while in confined places could be great. It would promote how e-cigarettes are safe to use, and how to use them without disturbing other people.

However not everyone knows the difference, and so it would be likely that e-cigarettes would get lumped in with vapourisers.

If the public thinks of is the huge cloud-producing vapouriser when they hear the word e-cigarette, then the debate might not go well. If the debate goes badly, it could lead to all types of e-cigarettes being banned, just because some people couldn’t resist making a huge cloud of vapour.

Greater freedom for the industry to advertise e-cigarettes

Under the rules we have at the moment e-cigarettes cannot advertise as they are classed as an 18+ product. Almost all avenues for e-cigarettes to advertise where cut off as the rule makers didn’t want e-cigarettes to be a gateway to smoking or to tempt teenagers.

Although it has been proven time and again that e-cigarettes don’t act as a gateway or as a temptation for teenagers, it hasn’t stopped law makers from treating them like they do.


When the laws were created we didn’t have the evidence we have now, so in theory it would make sense to revisit the issue.

A relaxation on these rules could be good as the benefits of e-cigarettes would be able to reach more people and hopefully get more smokers to make the switch.
It could also promote more competition and more education, if people knew about more brands they could choose the right e-cigarette for them and not be forced to try and use a bigger vapouriser if they are more suited for a smaller e-cigarette for example.

However, the above points are what would happen in a perfect world. In reality, rather than promoting diversity, advertising would allow the biggest companies to dominate, and the biggest companies around are the tobacco companies.

As we mentioned above, the tobacco companies are trying to move into the industry with their heat not burn devices. If there was a relaxation on advertising the worry is that people would just try what they know, even if there are better alternatives out there. Rather than helping e-cigarette companies then it could help push them out of the limelight.


The Bad

Most of the points raised by the committee had some merit, some of them however just seem like a bad idea.

Relaxing Of Regulations on e-liquids

Here at SMOKO we believe that the regulations were generally a good thing for the e-cigarette industry and the consumer as they ensured that all e-cigarettes were tested and registered.

Before the laws came into effect in 2016, industry was a bit like the wild west. Companies could do whatever they wanted to do with e-liquid and the ingredients they used.

This helped a lot of e-cigarette companies get started, but it also started a race to the bottom with some of the more disreputable companies. In the contest to see who produce the cheapest e-liquid, the concept of safety wasn’t considered.

This attitude brought about the scares of what was actually in the e-liquid, a lot of the news stories were overblown… but some weren’t. One such story was when some e-liquids were found to have Diacetyl and other carcinogens in them. SMOKO wasn’t affected as our e-liquid has always been made in the UK and were tested for anything out of place years before it became law, but it was a wakeup call to the industry.

This worry about what was in e-liquids was compounded by the fact that vapourisers are by their nature modular. Because of the wide variety of batteries and coils, it was extremely difficult to know exactly what is in the vapour being produced in a vapouriser. This got even worse when you could change the voltage of the battery, as vapour which was safe and tested using a 10-volt battery could be vastly different when you used a 150-volt battery.

The regulation was designed to combat this by imposing what ingredients could be used in e-liquids and required testing of all e-liquids in their equipment to make sure they didn’t produce anything they shouldn’t.

At first this went well for the industry, pre-filled e-cigarettes (like SMOKO) got their e-liquids tested against their equipment and passed all the requirements and many of the cheapest of e-liquids which couldn’t pass the testing were taken off the market.

However there has been a disturbing development recently, with many e-liquid companies now selling nicotine-free e-liquid (which isn’t regulated) and bottles of tested nicotine e-liquid – for the sole purpose of allowing consumers to mix them together.

By selling each separately, many e-liquid companies have circumnavigated the regulations and are still selling untested e-liquids. This obviously goes against the purpose of the laws (that being the safety of the consumer), and once again opens the e-cigarette industry to all those scaremongering stories about e-liquids being bad for you.

These companies and shops which sell the unregulated e-liquids don’t seem to care that their customers could easily be putting in massive amounts of nicotine into themselves if they get the mixture wrong, and they don’t want to bother with testing their e-liquids.

If they are this brazen with the safety of customers when there are rules, can you imagine what they would do if the regulations went away?

A rethink on limits on refill strengths and tank sizes

When the first e-cigarette was invented there wasn’t a set template on what it should look like or how it was meant to work. This led to a whole host of different designs and philosophies on what made the best e-cigarette.

Some (like SMOKO) went for small and discreet, while other companies went for bigger and more powerful. In an effort to out-do each, other some of the vapourisers went far beyond what anyone would need.

Companies also did the same with the e-liquids, creating e-liquid with ludicrous amounts of nicotine in them, up to 5% in some cases! To put this in perspective, 2% (which is the strongest percentage now) is considered the equivalent to a strong cigarette.

Although nicotine isn’t anywhere near as bad as people think it is, it is still a stimulant. And like coffee or energy drinks overdoing it can have serious consequences.

With large vapourisers, this fast and loose approach to power and e-liquids was dangerous for the consumer. Some vapourisers had tanks big enough to fit 10ml of e-liquid in, and variable voltage batteries that could overheat the liquid to produce the chemicals mentioned in the last section.

It is important to remember, these vapourisers create huge amount of vapour, (which is designed to turn even low nicotine e-liquids into something that can satisfy a 40 a day smoker), putting a high nicotine solution into them would not do the user any good. With huge tank sizes you can get a flood of vapour, making the situation even worse.

This was what led to the regulations. They were created to limit what strength e-liquids could be and the size of the tanks which hold the e-liquid so users couldn’t over-indulge in nicotine.

By lifting the rules and regulations, the floodgates would open and you would start to see e-liquids that can potentially hurt people and vapourisers that just make the problem worse.

As we mentioned above, some parts of the e-cigarette industry is happy to indulge in anything that will make them money, even if it’s not good for the customer.


With all of this in mind, many of the recommendations put forth by the committee would definitely reduce the number of people smoking traditional cigarettes and help to achieve the goal of a smoke-free generation. However, by removing all regulations on e-cigarettes and assuming that all e-cigarettes are the same, could lead to serious issues in the future.


So if you are looking for an alternative to smoking, consider the smaller, pre-filled e-cigarettes like SMOKO that control the amount of nicotine and see if you can make the switch!


Photo by Aron Van de Pol on Unsplash

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