UPDATE: the government confirms a ban on disposable vapes. Read our latest article on the subject here

The Department of Health & Social Care has published a survey to gather feedback from the general public regarding the proposed legislation aimed at tackling “youth vaping”. As with most governments across the globe, the “issue” of vaping results in a knee-jerk reaction with poor planning, irrelevant logic and pointless new rules which place a blanket ban on what is demonstrably the single most effective smoking cessation ever created.

Of course, our views on the matter can be seen as biased since we’re E liquid and flavour manufacturers and the proposed laws would impact us significantly, but we’ll investigate the propositions in the least biased way possible and we’ll focus on the facts.

What’s the Issue?

Firstly, lets look at the issue at hand which is claimed to be “youth vaping”. This is the fact that an alarming number of children and minors under the age of 18 have taken up smoking. The governments point of view is that Disposables are largely to blame, but so too is the packaging on many vape products. This premise is something we agree with. Disposable vapes probably do appeal to children due to their simplicity & the bold and colourful packaging sometimes featuring cartoons and other childish media.

What does the Department of Health & Social Care Propose?

The propositions given by the government include a series of giant leaps in logic and reason, which we list below:

1. The restriction of Vape Flavours – 3 Options given:

  • Limiting how the vape is described – this could involve a ban on certain terms being used, for example: “Mango”. This restriction was adopted by the Austrian government and so no E Liquid is allowed to contain the name of it’s flavour. Flavour names in Austria are now entirely ambiguous so “Acid Drop” would be allowed where “Cryo Mango” would not be allowed.
  • Limiting the ingredients in vapes – This one is more vague but may include the ban of certain ingredients used to make certain fruity or dessert flavours. Such a restriction could see the available flavours cut down to a few that the government deems “not appealing to kids”. Let’s not forget, no child in the history of humanity has ever taken up smoking, because as we all know, the flavour of Tobacco doesn’t appeal to kids.
  • Limiting the characterising of flavours (the taste & smell) of vapes – Again this one is vague but seems to suggest an outright ban on flavours the government deems appealing to kids. Most vape businesses would shut their doors overnight following the introduction of such a legislation, and no doubt many people would go back to smoking. After all, the range of flavours available is what sets vaping apart from smoking. Adults also like fruity and dessert flavours, not just kids.

All three options are left somewhat vague but we get an idea of the restriction. In any case, we strongly disagree that flavours are responsible for the rise in vaping amongst the youth. Before the advent of disposable vapes there was no mention of any such issue – despite the very same flavours having been on the market for many years prior. It is this fact that we base our opposition to the assertion. Regardless of flavours appealing to children, the law has been clear from the very beginning: selling vapes to children is in fact ILLEGAL. So how exactly are kids getting a hold of vapes? We think it’s more than likely due to brick & mortar stores (physical shops) disregard for the law in the face of quick and easy money. In fact, we’ve seen it happen first hand and have notified the authorities to no avail. It is also likely due to adults supplying children whether their own or not, with the devices. Some see vaping as the lesser of two evils and given the options of smoking and vaping, they opt for the latter.

In any case, if law enforcement actually enforced their own laws, youth vaping would not be an issue. Instead of cracking down harder on businesses who sell to minors, the government wants to effectively slash an entire industry down to it’s bare bones, based on no real facts or evidence.

Following on, you’re presented with a further 3 options:

  • Flavours limited to tobacco only – An obscene, over-the-top knee-jerk-reaction that only the most stubborn and uninformed could possibly side with. As mentioned above, one of the main reasons behind the success of vaping as a smoking cessation is the fact there are so many different flavours to choose from. Flavours themselves are not the problem – it’s individuals who see fit to sell to children.
  • Flavours limited to tobacco, mint & menthol only – Pretty much the same as above – a pointless generalisation of vape flavours as the primary reason behind the hike in youth vaping.
  • Flavours limited to tobacco, mint, menthol & fruit only – the least of the three evils and yet still over-the-top

Shortly after the above 3 options there is another which asks if you think non-nicotine containing e-liquid should also be included in the restrictions. We think this is an important distinction which could result in an easy win for the industry. Before the days of disposable vapes, DIY vaping (mixing E liquid yourself) and high-power sub-ohm devices were huge. There was much interest in “Shortfills” and other DIY products as a means of affordable vaping, clearly not something children and young people gravitated towards and so including such products in the restrictions fly’s in the face of common sense. If the government were to ban disposable vapes – they’d achieve their goals immediately and the industry would thrive. UK manufacturing would be restored to it’s former glory and our environment would be the better for it.

 

Below are three examples of products for the Austrian Market where vape packaging cannot name or depict anything edible.

Cryo Grape with a slight alteration to it's name. Note the lack of fruit in the label design.

Mel Madness

Damf Pocket Salt Blue Strike

2. Regulating Point of Sale Displays

Currently, vape products are not restricted to behind the counter displays like tobacco products are, and this restriction looks at changing that. The governments claim is that such products are in the field of view (and potentially the hands) of children and young people. This isn’t something we disagree with as it’s true – so long as this doesn’t affect vape shops. For places like Tesco’s and Morrisons – we agree that vape products should be restricted to behind the counter.

The survey then asks if you think vape products should be restricted in the same way as tobacco products – behind the counter and not on display (hidden). It’s a grey area which doesn’t seem to make much sense since alcohol and adult products (condoms & lubricant etc) are not restricted in this way. Whilst we agree that vape products should be behind the counter in non-vape shops like convenience stores, it would be pointless to hide them along with tobacco.

The next question is: do you think exemptions should be made for specialist vape shops? This question in itself is ludicrous – if vape products are restricted to behind the counter and off display, then vape shops would have no business left to do. We cannot see any sensible reason behind doing this other than the possibility of the government wanting to stop vaping altogether, but without actually banning it outright.

3. Regulating Vape packaging and product presentation

This is another attempt to reduce youth vaping and three options are presented:

  • Prohibiting the use of cartoons, characters, animals, inanimate objects, and other child friendly imagery, on both the vape packaging and vape device. This would still allow for colouring and tailored brand design – it will be difficult to draw a distinction between what imagery does and doesn’t appeal to kids so we can see this being worse than it sounds. The government can simply claim that an image of a Mango appeals to kids. Though we find ourselves agreeing that certain imagery has no place on a vape product.
  • Prohibiting the use of all imagery and colouring on both the vape packaging and vape device but still allow branding such as logos and names – Why are IPA beer brands allowed to use cartoons and other child-friendly images then? It’s either all ok, or none of it is – this seems like cherry picking to us and it’s totally unnecessary. As we mentioned before, it is already illegal to sell vapes to children. If the government cannot enforce it’s own laws then all they have left to do is unfairly restrict the sale of affected to products to EVERYONE. This is a clear failing on their behalf and they seek to punish millions of people for it.
  • Prohibiting the use of all imagery and colouring and branding (standardised packaging) for both the vape packaging and vape device – Even worse than above and a total fail of an attempt to combat youth vaping with no regard for collateral damage.

 

Vape packaging regulations

More colourful packaging for IPA beer

Cartoons used for craft Beer

4. Restricting the supply and sale of disposable vapes

This one is just hilarious because it’s downright ironic, the very issue that spawned this reaction by the government is BECAUSE OF DISPOSABLE VAPES. Want to reduce youth vaping (and enormously reduce the impact the industry has on the environment at the same time)? – BAN DISPOSABLES.

It’s no secret now what damage disposable vapes have done to the environment and the market in general. Banning them would be a quick and easy win for the government as they’d kill two birds with one stone – reduce youth vaping and remove the insane environmental impact they represent. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – do we really trust in the government to make a sensible decision for us? We’re not confident.

In this topic, the survey firstly asks if you think the sale of disposables should be restricted. Most of us would agree. Next it asks if you think they should be prohibited. We’d opt for the latter as they’re entirely unnecessary and people will still be able to vape without them – they’d spend less and they’d do less damage to the environment.

Lastly, the section asks if an implementation period should be given of no less than 6 months after the law is introduced – this would allow business to continue selling their stock for the period. We think this is absolutely necessary as without it many business would be holding huge stock value with no way to get rid of it.

5. Non-nicotine vapes and other nicotine consumer products

This section asks some questions that pretty much no one can provide evidence for, as it asks.

  • Do you have any evidence that the UK Government and devolved administrations should consider related to the harms or use of non-nicotine vapes? – who can provide evidence? Shouldn’t the government be the ones to conduct such research? It’s almost as if they’re asking for evidence because they know that no one will be able to provide it, and they can carry on with their control-agenda.
  • Do you think the UK Government and devolved administrations should regulate non-nicotine vapes under a similar regulatory framework as nicotine vapes? – Absolutely not. Again we mentioned earlier that prior to the days of disposable vapes, youth vaping was not an issue and as such these products should remain unaffected by any restrictions.
  • Do you have any evidence that the UK Government and devolved administrations should consider on the harms or use of other consumer nicotine products such as nicotine pouches? – This doesn’t pertain to the article so we’ll ignore it. Again though – who can possibly provide evidence?

6. “Affordability”

“This consultation covers a range of measures to reduce the appeal and availability of vapes to children. To support this agenda, the UK Government thinks that there is a strong case to take action on affordability and so is exploring options, including a new duty on vapes as other countries have done, while ensuring that there is a significant differential between duty on vapes and duty on tobacco products.”

Sigh

The UK Government wants to follow in the footsteps of other EU countries like Poland and Germany by introducing a tax on vape products. This is more than likely a money-grabbing exercise to make up for the loss of tax from declining tobacco sales. We’ve already mentioned our solution to “youth vaping” and it’s as simple as banning disposables. The introduction of a tax on vape products would only contribute to the rising cost of living, it will not stop people from vaping and it won’t deter children from vaping either. A black market would no doubt open as opportunists seek to make money. Cannabis is illegal, and yet it exists in every neighbourhood out there, with law enforcement woefully unequipped to tackle it effectively.

An often overlooked consequence of restrictions on the vaping industry is those who make an honest living from it. A tax would result in many small business closing their doors for good, and the giants in the industry would move in to take the monopoly – with many of those being Chinese firms. Which I might add – are the ones responsible for the fall-out from disposable vapes in the first place.

If the government had been swift and decisive from the beginning and thwarted what could only have been damaging for the environment, disposables would never have caused such issues that have given rise to drastic and knee-jerk reactions like taxation and new packaging rules.

The tax on E liquids (containing nicotine or not) currently stands at 0.16 Euros per millilitre! That means the tax alone on a 10ml nic salt is 1.6 Euros, then you add on the cost of the bottle by the manufacturer which is at least the same again and you have an exorbitant price for E Liquid. An absolute disaster and something we hope never happens here in the UK – especially when we have both the NHS and PHE backing vaping as 95% healthier than smoking.

6. “Enforcement”

As with section 5, this is laughable. If enforcement cannot stop shops from selling vapes to children and young people, what makes them think they can suddenly apply penalties to those doing so going forward?

This section asks if you think there should be fixed penalties for selling vape products to kids. AS IF THIS EVEN HAS TO BE ASKED! There are already penalties for doing so and it’s currently illegal.

It then asks what level of fixed penalty notice should be given and 3 options are listed:

  • £100
  • £200
  • Other

At this point we have to laugh. If the government deems youth vaping to be such a problem, why does it suggest such low penalties for breach of law? Should it not ramp up the consequences to increase deterrence? An Elf Bar sells for around £5, with a FPN of £100 you’d only have to sell another 20 to to get your money back – hardly a deterrence!

Drip Hacks Conclusion

We’ve delved through the survey to analyse what the government proposes and what each proposition would do to the market and your ability to continue vaping. There’s only a couple of proposed changes to legislation which make any real sense and those are:

  • Ban the use of cartoon characters and any other child-friendly media from vape packaging – This is fine. Vapes aren’t the right place for cartoon characters! So long as it doesn’t stop us from showing fruits or depicting the flavour itself.
  • Moving vape products to behind the counter – This is acceptable for convenience stores and supermarkets but not for specialist vape stores. Otherwise they’d have to shut their doors for good.

The mention of taxation of vape products is something we knew was coming from the very beginning – even as far back as 2015. If there is money to be made, the government will tax it. You pay tax on your income, then on the house you live in, the fuel you fill your car with, the products you buy at the store, the house you buy, the cigarettes you used to smoke and now most likely – the vapes you used to stop smoking.

As always the government is terribly out of touch and doesn’t seem to understand the issue, their paltry attempt at a survey to gather information and consult you is likely to be a farce and will have no actual impact on the outcome.

  • If a tax is levied against vape products similar to the German market, vaping will no longer be much cheaper than smoking and most small businesses will die overnight.
  • The ban of all flavours save for tobacco and menthol will result in a drastic decrease in the uptake of vaping by smokers and the collapse of many or most small businesses.

Depending on what the government does, and we think they’ll introduce a tax – the future for vaping doesn’t look too good.