A few years ago I was talking to two salesmen representing a fish food manufacturer, one had flown over for the trade show from America the other was English, I asked a technical question about a particular fish food in their range, the American gentleman said that he did not know the answer to my query because "we only distribute that one to the European market so I'm not sure of the answer" to which the UK representative said “no, we have it in the UK too”. It was apparent that the American considered the 'European Market' to be Mainland Europe, the U.K and Eire while the English guy automatically assumed that the 'European Market' was nothing to do with the U.K. The point being that so often we in the UK forget that we are part of Europe, it's as true now as then.
It's easy to imagine that something called a Draft EU Directive would not have any effect on us in our country, we might even assume that our Parliament would simply ignore something that we consider so manifestly stupid but we need to realise that nothing could be further from the truth.
The Draft EU Tobacco Directive proposes including electronic cigarettes within its legislation. Vapers will be greatly effected if this is allowed to happen. If it became illegal for you to buy ecigs and ejuice what would you do? There would only be four choices, 1) Give up nicotine. 2) Go back to smoking tobacco. 3) Break the law. 4) Move out of Europe.
How the EU works
EU Directives are designed to be beneficial to the citizens of Europe as a whole, there are many examples to praise, the Distant Selling Directive or the Water Framework Directive have been a distinctive advantage to us, to name just two. Furthermore when the European Parliament sets a standard this is often spread across the globe. Imagine being a manufacturer of cars; if you do not comply to EU emission controls then you are excluded from sales within the European Union, it would make no sense to make a mass produced car that could not sell in such a large market or to produce a different quality of vehicle for each market, so by default everyone buying a car anywhere in the world is effected. If the EU ban ecigs it will effect the production and design innovation of ecigs worldwide.
Draft European Directives originate from the European Union Commission, the Commission is made up of Commissioners from the member states, the Commissioners are not voted into their position by us, they are nominated by national governments. I do not think that the inclusion of Electronic Cigarettes in this update of the Draft Tobacco Directive has been done because the Commissioners are inherently evil or that they wish to inflict us with smoking related illness by forcing us back to using tobacco, I simply believe that they are unaware of what ecigs are and the roll they have in offering those of us who can not or are unwilling to stop consuming nicotine a choice other than to smoke.
You can read the directive online @ ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/docs/com_2012_788_en.pdf the relevant paragraph for Vapers is 3.7.
The Directive has been presented to the EU councils and EU Parliament. It is the responsibility of EU council members who are drawn from relevant ministers of national governments to evaluate the draft and with the EU Parliament make amendments to it. The EU Parliament then accept or reject the proposal. It is right now that our elected representatives are deciding on our vaping future. Once the EU Parliament has accepted a directive our own national government must implement it or face action from the European Court of Justice, in fact once passed a directive is the de-facto law across Europe. You can forget any thoughts that you might be harbouring about our Government standing up against the EU Parliament, once a Directive has been accepted it is simply too late to change it. It is predicted that the EU Tobacco Directive will be adopted by our Government in 2014 and take effect 2015/16.
So when & what?
The time to act is now, there is no point in complaining once this directive has been accepted by the European Parliament. Politicians need to hear from us, they need to be told how we as individuals use ecigs, what we see as the advantages of vaping and the consequences to us of a ban. We need to make it clear that ecigs are not tobacco products and so should not be included in the Tobacco Directive and that they are not a Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) either so must not be burdened by the legislation designed for medicines. Electronic Cigarettes are a novel product and must not be pushed into pre-existing legal structures.
The first, simple thing to do is fill in every online partition you can find. Online surveys also play in important roll in informing others. Get your Googling finger out and start to get heard! You may have never considered writing to your MP or MEP but these people are elected by us to represent our wishes, they can't do this unless they know your views. Some MP's and MEP's are actively seeking your input, others may simply not be aware of this impending ban or how serious it will be to so many of us. They simply need to be told by email or letter what you think, you need to ask your local MP to raise this issue with the Department of Health, your MEP also needs to be asked by you to represent your views within Europe. This needs to be done now while our vaping future is being actively decided.
Update 3/5/13. One of the councils evaluating the Draft Tobacco Directive has suggested that E Cigarettes should be removed from the Directive. JURI, which is an excellent acronym for Legal Affairs, feels that the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the Directive would not withstand legal challenge. This is an important step in the right direction, even if their advice is ignored and e-cigarettes remain in the Directive the JURI opinion would imply that a realistic legal argument could be raised with the EU courts. We are not yet free of the threatened ban but we are a bit closer.
I have avoided the temptation to make this article a link-fest of hypertext because I'm fairly sure that you know how to use a search engine but I must sneak in just one suggestion: Vapers Against the Ban's site is a fantastic resource of further information. Vapersagainsttheban.wordpress.com
I'll be posting more about Ecig legislation and studies to expand this article in the future, maybe it's not the most entertaining subject but it is important to vaping and it's future. Your comments about the above are welcomed. The views expressed in this article are my personal opinions and are not necessarily those held by ECigWizard.