Fighting the EU Tobacco Directive

Lots of people in the vaping and e-cigarette industry have been discouraged by recent announcements on the European Union Tobacco Directive, a piece of regulation that goes well beyond what the European Parliament originally voted to approve in October of last year. It seems like the European regulators have done an about-face and look toward much more stringent regulations that, in some ways, just don’t make any sense. As reported by The Times, these measures have been called draconian and even health-threatening.

Now, at least one industry group is fighting back. Reports show the UK-based company Totally Wicked is about to present the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union after being awarded the right to challenge the newly imposed regulations. The full details can be found in the case documents.

The Regulations

One of the big problems with but the EU Tobacco Directive has been saying about regulation involves a ‘blanket’ regulation for chemical elements in vaping and e-cigarette products.

In traditional tobacco products, cigarette companies only had to test for nicotine, tar and carbon dioxide, three of the big pollutants naturally generated by traditional tobacco. However, experts point out that there are thousands of chemicals in natural tobacco smoke that were not regulated. Now, the tobacco directive demands that vaping product and e-cigarette makers test any chemical emissions put out by the devices, which is much more thorough than what was in place for traditional tobacco products.

There’s also a demand for a certain consistency of nicotine in vaping — regulators seem to be asking for the impossible in terms of vaping system design, and also asking vaping device and e-cigarette makers to dramatically lower the amount of nicotine allowed in their products relative to what users would get from a cigarette.

In terms of smoking cessation, this makes no sense. For one thing, the lower levels of nicotine would not allow many people to reasonably wean themselves off of traditional tobacco products. For another, it doesn’t make sense to more stringently test a class of items that medical science has found to be far less destructive than traditional tobacco products. The goal, according to many businesses and organizations, health insurance companies and national governments, is to get more people off of cigarettes and traditional tobacco products, and if vaping and e-cigarettes helps accomplish this, that’s to the good.

The Challenge

On October 1, the attorney for Totally Wicked had 20 minutes to present arguments and several responses were presented to the court by EU institutions on the other side of the case. Now, the court is saying there will be an opinion from the Advocate General of the court on December 17. The company and its supporters are trying to educate people on what they’re doing and how they hope this process will help support the vaping and e-cigarette industry and loosen up some of the worst regulations around these products.

The controversy is shining a light on the way that European Union law works for consumer products. There’s a rigid process that each approval has to go through, and in this case, the complexities of the industries involved are creating some ambiguity. Advocates for vaping and e-cigarette products are looking closely at how this case turns out, to see whether modern governments are going to allow these kinds of products free access to the market, to help people improve their health by quitting smoking.