New Laws in EU Give Lifeline to Black Market New Laws in EU Give Lifeline to Black Market

The new vaping laws in Europe came into effect this week. In addition to laws requiring safe packaging and warning labels, there are several laws that limit access to large quantities of e-liquid. This could cause prices to rise, and will definitely leave many vapers feeling inconvenienced by smaller bottles of e-liquid and smaller containers that make refilling a more frequent necessity. Some worry that the situation could drive European vapers to buy products on the black market or attempt to make e-liquid themselves, which could decrease the safety of vaping and hurt the industry at home.

The Tobacco Products Directive is aimed at reducing smoking across Europe by making cigarettes less appealing, but it contains provisions limiting access to e-liquid that could make vaping less appealing than smoking and encourage smokers not to quit. Under the new laws, e-liquid can only be sold in bottles containing 10 ml or less, so the popular 30 ml bottles are now off the shelves at shops. In addition, tanks or cartridges that hold more than 2 ml are illegal. Many vapers, especially those who use larger personal vaping devices, use tanks that can hold 3 to 3.5 ml of liquid or even more. For these people, refilling their devices will become a more frequent chore.

The strength of e-liquid nicotine has also been reduced by the laws. The maximum previously was 24 mg, which is equivalent to a “high” on most scales of e-liquid. The new maximum of 20 mg is still relatively high but venturing into “medium” territory. Smokers who are coming from a habit of smoking “regular” higher nicotine cigarettes are more likely to have success completely switching to vaping if they start with high nicotine e-cigarettes. The limit of 20 mg for e-liquid could harm smokers by making it less likely than they can quit with vaping.

Other laws are not in dispute, such as the requirement of warning labels and ingredient listings on bottles, as well as child-proof packaging. Cigarettes were hit even harder by the new laws, with all packages of cigarettes now being standardized with graphic health warning labels. Some flavors of cigarettes are being banned or will be; menthol cigarettes are not completely banned yet but they are being phased out.

Fortunately, flavors will remain an option for vaping. In England, where health officials have declared vaping to be 95% safer than smoking, a representative of the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health said that more research needs to be done on vaping but for now, it is clearly better for smokers to vape. The availability of flavors for e-liquid where tobacco flavors are banned could help encourage smokers to switch to vaping.

It is difficult to predict if the 10 ml bottle maximum will make the price of e-liquid prohibitive enough to squash the appeal of switching to e-cigarettes, but the vaping industry is not expressing tremendous concerns about costs. Rather, retailers seem to be more concerned with vapers being harmed by lack of convenience from smaller bottles and cartridges, which could drive them to the black market to buy e-liquid or to buy pure nicotine and make e-liquid at home. Handling nicotine at home could be dangerous, so the new laws could wind up doing more harm to health than good.


Katie Bercham - CocktailNerd Editor

Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 5 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community.