Akin to the new kid at school suffering the archetypal dilemma of choosing the right lunch table to sit at; electronic cigarettes don’t appear to fit into any of the groups made up of more-established peers. Now the authorities who are charged with the task of governing e cigs alongside other consumer products are not helping the industry find its identity, by tagging it along with all manner of contemporaries, ne’er-do-wells and goody-two-shoes.
Rather than allowing electronic cigarettes to blossom in their individuality and offer their unique blend of benefits; the forces that be are intent on pigeon-holing the square peg that is the e cig industry.
Most worryingly, there is no clear, unified approach to categorising e cigarettes. Much to the chagrin of the e cig industry in the European Union; the MHRA and European Parliament announced plans in the Tobacco Product Directive to regulate electronic cigarettes as medicinal products.
This already suggests the electronic cigarette industry is a part of both the tobacco and medicinal sectors despite containing no tobacco and making no medicinal claims.
Confusing the situation even further, the French Government are now considering plans to correlate electronic cigarettes with energy drinks, flavoured wines and artificial sweeteners in a confused mixed band of consumer products and place a tax upon them. The plans which were leaked today could return €6bn to the country’s social security system in 2014.
This proposed tax would be at an above VAT rate of 19.6% and would cause outrage to France’s half a million vapers. The French e cig community are still reeling from the decision in May to ban vaping in enclosed public places.
The varied approaches to regulating electronic cigarettes suggest that authorities are aghast at witnessing a consumer product grow and potentially replace an $80bn industry that they regulate and control strictly. Bonnie Herzog of banking and financial experts Wells Fargo has predicted that e cig sales could soon outstrip those of tobacco. This seeming desperation to regulate for regulation’s sake has led to no centralised approach as to how to treat electronic cigarettes and an apparent uncertainty as to what the product actually is.
An unfortunate by-product of the mixed approach to regulating e cigarettes is a potential confusion amongst consumers. Seeing a consumer product regulated as a medicinal product, customers may get the wrong impression of the industry and the very products at the core of the industry. This could lead to people who may benefit from using electronic cigarettes, missing out due to misinformation.
There are a number of campaigns in place attempting to reverse the proposed regulations on electronic cigarettes such as Save E Cigs who state in their mission statement that their campaign ‘wishes to see e-cigarettes robustly regulated as a consumer product.’
The campaign is currently sourcing supporters from e cig suppliers, users and European Parliament members to add weight to the initiative and convince the authorities that electronic cigarettes are performing well without undue medicinal regulation.
A number of electronic cigarette companies have also kick-started their own campaigns. One of the UK’s original e cig suppliers TECC in particular have been active in recruiting advocates to the cause. The company have taken the stance that the proposed EU laws will effectively ban electronic cigarettes and are fighting to reverse these proposals.
A centralised decision as to how to classify electronic cigarettes would make the industry easier and more efficient to regulate effectively. A standard and accurate perception of how to categorise e cigs will add credence to regulations rather than the incomprehensible approach that it currently administered.