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New Product Directive Looms

The passage of the revised Tobacco Products Directive by the Parliament of the European Union last Wednesday was a setback, of course. But it may not affect the European "vaper-on-the-street" much in the immediate future, and perhaps not in the long run either.

Let's take a look at how the changes will affect European vapers' everyday lives.

The limitation of nicotine concentration to 20mg/ml may be the most serious problem. It will also be irritating to have to deal with smaller bottles of nicotine liquid, and ones that are hard to open, at that. But those may be bearable irritations. However, the ban on nicotine concentrations that have been the norm until now is a change that may drive some vapers back to smoking, killing a predictable percentage of them.

Of course there will be a black market, and it will be expensive and unsafe. And there will be DIY ("do-it-yourself") operations, which can be quite dangerous to those without training in chemistry.

On the other hand, this provision is based on such bad science that it may be possible to alter it. The outcry has already been significant, both before passage (see the objections of prominent nicotine researcher Konstantinos Farsalinos) and since passage (see the London Times article by prominent science writer Matt Ridley). We have some time. Then there's the advertising ban. This will affect the ability of e-cig suppliers to attract new customers in the future. Since most of these potential new customers would certainly be smokers wishing to quit, and since a percentage of them will die if they don't switch and quit, the EU authorities will have even more blood on their hands. But that's a matter for their own consciences; it will not affect people who already use e-cigs.

Vapers are a community, and they know what they need and where to get it. Of course it will be irritating to have photos of diseased lung tissue on your e-cig package. But of course you know that it's a picture of what your lungs would have looked like if you had not switched to e-cigarettes. So despite the esthetic down-side, it could be interpreted as encouragement. Prices will rise, of course, and black markets will appear. Plus ça change. One major impact of the change will be a tremendous boon to Big Tobacco. Of course they opposed it since the extensive new packaging and labeling requirements will cost them some cash.

But guess what: they've got some cash. Lots of it, in fact. They can take the new requirements in stride, without batting an eye. However, the hundreds of little companies that have sprung up in the last seven years will have a lot more trouble reaching the new bar, and some of them may close down as a result. So the marketing scene will change and it will be a lot easier for Big Tobacco to swagger in and dominate the field, selling poison with one hand and its antidote with the other. Nice work, EU Parliament! Salvation may lie in the fact that vapers have become a community. Smokers never were, or at least never to any great extent. But vaping has become a hobby for many, a passion, a social group, and an embattled one at that, strengthening group cohesion even more.

Vapers could rally to the little companies and resist Big Tobacco's dominance. They will band together even more if draconian new restrictions take effect, like any commmunity that is hounded by the mainstream. And they will not accept the new TPD quietly. There's more to come – watch this space!