Electronic cigarettes are wildly popular across Europe with an estimated 1.3 million users in the UK alone. In the past, e-cigs have faced no government regulations or restrictions in Britain, but that is all about to change. On Wednesday, the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced that e-cigs would be classified and regulated as nonprescription medications starting in 2016.
The MHRA is taking steps to regulate e-cigarettes in order to be sure that users can continue to safely enjoy these products. Officials have noted concern about inconsistent nicotine levels that can vary widely from one e-cig batch to the next. With the new regulations, each e-cig company will be required to meet quality control standards and be able to prove that nicotine levels are true as stated on the packaging. Companies have until 2016 to make sure they are complying with the new regulations before facing penalties.
Meeting the new standards won’t be difficult for some of the larger e-cig operations. Several major tobacco companies have jumped into the e-cig industry in the past few years and they certainly have adequate funding to make any needed changes to their production processes. Popular manufacturers like Lorillard, Reynolds American, Altria, British American Tobacco, and Imperial Tobacco all offer e-cigs now. On the other hand, there are many small privately owned companies that offer e-cigarettes too. These are the companies that will suffer heavily from the new regulations.
The MHRA has made it clear that they do not want to ban e-cigs for fear that people will go back to using tobacco. Jeremy Mean gave a statement on behalf of the MHRA on Wednesday. “Smoking is the riskiest thing you can do and we want to enable people to cut down and quit,” said Mean.
As Britain’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies seemed to agree with the MHRA’s stance. “While it’s best to quit completely, I realize that not every smoker can and it is much better to get nicotine from safer sources such as nicotine replacement therapy. It’s only right (e-cigarettes) are properly regulated to be safe and work effectively.”
As the new regulations begin in 2016, it will certainly cause some changes to the vaping industry. With the MHRA regulating e-cigs, manufacturers will be able to market their products with claims about smoking cessation. This was not allowed in the past. Physicians will also have the freedom to recommend and prescribe e-cigarettes as a good alternative to smoking to help their patients quit tobacco.
So how do e-cigarette companies feel about the upcoming changes? E-Lites is the top selling e-cig brand in Britain and chief executive Adrian Everett weighed in on the situation on Wednesday. “It would be a significant public health loss if electronic cigarettes were made less available to purchase or less available to use during the transition from a consumer product to a medicinal product,” he said. Everett also said that E-Lites was prepared to meet the new standards and would continue production.
Until the new regulations are enforced in 2016, electronic cigarettes and other vaping supplies will continue to be available in convenience stores and online. However, no one can be certain about how the regulations will impact the industry in the long run.
What do you think will happen as e-cigs become classified as medicinal? Is this a step forward for vaping quality or will it simply make it more difficult to access e-cigarettes in Britain?