The EU’s new rules for vapers: this is Brussels at its most petty and pointless

The failure of two legal challenges against the EU’s new Tobacco Products Directive means that a swarm of new regulations will come into effect from May 20. The new laws have all the hallmarks of the kind of unaccountable decision-making and bureaucratic excess that the European Commission has made its own. Finding logic in the regulations is futile. The EU has simultaneously banned small packs of cigarettes while banning all but the smallest packs of rolling tobacco. Why? If packs of ten encourage young people to buy them, as the health zealots claim, why not make packs of rolling tobacco larger?

Despite containing no tobacco, e-cigarettes have somehow become caught up in the Tobacco Products Directive with a list of petty, pointless regulations which will only serve to inconvenience consumers and limit innovation. Bottles of e-cigarette fluid will be restricted to a measly ten millilitres and they will have to be sold with a leaflet explaining the alleged risks of vaping. Both measures will create a large amount of waste for no purpose. Needless to say, no such leaflet will be included in cigarette packs.

On and on it goes, with endless, senseless regulations on packaging and product design specified to the nearest milligram and millimetre. An upper limit for nicotine content has been set at a level well below what many smokers find satisfying, which can only lead to fewer smokers switching to a product that the Royal College of Physicians recently said is at least 95 per cent safer than smoking. And, despite the vast differences in risk profiles, the directive places the same restrictions on e-cigarette advertising as it does on tobacco advertising. Innovation in this dynamic sector is sure to be stifled by such draconian rules.

This is classic regulatory over-reach from the EU. Remarkably, none of it is explicitly in the name of health. The EU has no mandate to set health policy and so all of the new laws in the Tobacco Products Directive have to masquerade as market harmonisation measures. But where is the harmony? Sweden keeps its exemption from the EU’s ban on smokeless tobacco (‘snus’). Countries which ban the sale of e-cigarettes, such as Finland, will not be encouraged to lift their prohibitions. Menthol cigarettes will be banned across the EU despite no member state seriously contemplating a ban of its own. Every country must have graphic warnings on fag packs making up 65 per cent of the surface area, but if countries want to go the whole hog and introduce their own ‘standardised packs’ they are free to do so.

This is not harmonisation and nor is it evidence-based policy-making. It is Brussels throwing its weight around with a botched compromise of a directive that will achieve nothing. There is no good reason why British shops should not be able to sell cigarettes in packs of ten or e-cigarette fluid in 20-millilitre bottles. Why can’t they just leave us alone?

  • gray cooper

    Wherever they are tobacco control politicians who want my support or vote are permanently denied

  • Karl_Snow

    This EU ruling despises me profoundly, so obviously not caring for “public” or peoples health is disgusting. NO to EU or just push the EJECT button. Good luch to you Brits on the referendum day.

  • Civil Disobedience

    • Rollo10

      In mass numbers!

  • Murray Winiata

    As a doctor I find these regulations against e-cigarettes abhorrent.

  • southseas

    Anti-smoking campaigners are health zealots ? I imagine that the 10ml limit is linked to child safety as it is a toxic liquid which will be left lying around the house. Petty and pointless?

    • SteveW

      I presume we’ll be hearing about your campaign to only allow bleach to be sold in 10ml bottles soon then? Especially that lemony scented stuff, you know what ‘the kids’ are like with flavoured products…

      • southseas
        • AlanStrangis

          Who cares what the Daily Mail thinks. They, and you, are missing the point.

          In the US, there were over 2.2 millions “exposure” calls to poison control centres.

          Even with the prevalence of vaping, the number of calls regarding kids ingesting e-liquids is orders of magnitude lower. For example, in 2014 there were over 5,100 calls regarding energy drink exposure, 2,500 e-liquid exposures.

          Cosmetics are the #1 item, at 15%, cleaning products at 11% are 2nd. In 10th place, garden variety plants make up 3% of calls regarding children.

          Neither energy drinks nor e-liquids crack the top 10, and COMBINED make up less than HALF of 1% of the calls.

          At the same time, you don’t see NEARLY as much “think of the children” fear-mongering regarding shampoo and perfume.

          Here’s a reference…

          • “For example, in 2014 there were over 5,100 calls regarding energy drink exposure, 2,500 e-liquid exposures.”

            Of those 2,500, there were either ZERO fatalities or ONE fatality (There’s been one instance of a child swallowing concentrated industrial e-liquid in the last ten years.) Meanwhile, in the average year, there are SEVEN THOUSAND deaths from overdoses of ASPIRIN. So the death toll for the last ten years stands at 70,000 for Aspirin vs. 1 for e-liquid.

            Perhaps now though, if the FDA regulates e-liquid the way it does aspirin, we can look forward to 70,000 deaths there too?

            – MJM

    • AlanStrangis

      Anti-smoking zealots are morons, BECAUSE they’re equating e-cigarettes WITH smoking, for no valid health reasons. Their zealotry blinds them to the fact (well-documented now) that e-cigarettes are THE most effective way people have managed to quit smoking.

      • Foxytrader

        No they aren’t. Total nicotine abstinence is the most effective way people have quit smoking. Most vapers are still nicotine-dependent and many, if not most, will go back to smoking. Quite a few do both.

        • Geoff Owen

          nicotine is not the addictive substance, that’s why there not pushing the nicotine thing anymore, lab tests (done by the anti vaping zealots) failed to get mice or people addicted, it’s been proven many times it’s the chemicals added to tobacco by the big companies that create the addictive chemicals.
          Nicotine abstinence is about as useful as the placebo patches/gum totally useless.
          please at least try and do some research.

          • Foxytrader

            I didn’t use the word addictive – you did. If you stop smoking and don’t waste your time using nicotine-based products be it vapourisers, gum, etc then the job is done. How do you think all those people quit prior to the prevalence of all these products? Read Allen Carr get a little backbone and it’s quite straightforward. I’ve done my research you just need to stop looking for excuses. Besides vaping looks absolutely ridiculous.

          • IMSiegfried

            I don’t ever plan to stop using Nicotine because I enjoy the energy and focus it gives me without the crash like coffee. Have a great day!

        • IMSiegfried

          Except that smokers don’t quit smoking. Your approach would be for them to die trying. But I understand why you have concerns. It’s because you’re being lied to.

          Check out the documentary, A Billion Lives, a true story of government failure, big business and the vaping revolution. The documentary was made by a non-smoker, and non-vaper who has no financial ties to either the tobacco or vaping industry. Learn the truth!

          • Foxytrader

            Millions have stopped smoking without vaping or using patches or gum. In fact that’s how the figures dropped from 60%+ to under 40% now. It’s simple – do not use tobacco products or any of the other nicotine-based products. A few days of discomfort then freedom. Turning this whole thing into some faux-civil liberties battle against the evils of big business is just another excuse. You weren’t born sticking nicotine – a poison that would kill you with a single intravenous drop – into your system neither is it crack cocaine. Grow up, stop giving idiots more excuses to continue to harm themselves and get on with your lives.

          • IMSiegfried

            Well, aren’t you sweet. For those who do care about their neighbors, there are 40 million smokers in the USA and over 130 million in China. 70% of those smokers want to quit but are unable to do so. And yet according to this guy millions of people are too stupid to figure out something so “simple” as how to quit, and on and on it goes.

            * Your words in an attempt to shame people into doing what you want. You use more of the same old worn tactics by naively believing that trying to shame smokers works to make them quit. Again, look at the stats if you still believe that.

            Have a great day!

          • Foxytrader

            What’s caring about giving people an excuse to carry on killing themselves? Stopping smoking is straightforward – millions have done it. To pretend otherwise is to provide the smoker with the excuse he needs. I’m not shaming anybody and if people choose not to stop poisoning themselves and shortening their lives whilst paying a fortune for the privilege it doesn’t affect me one jot. However don’t insult my intelligence by pretending it is impossible to stop or that you are somehow the caring one by providing people with some spurious justification for continuing to smoke.

          • IMSiegfried

            Vaping is not smoking. The Royal College of Physicians says doctors (32,000 doctors) should be telling smokers to use e-cigs to quit with. And that Public Health should be promoting vaping and NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking. That’s good enough for me and million of smokers who’ve made the switch.

            “Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction”

          • IMS, you noted, “70% of those smokers want to quit but are unable to do so.” Actually that’s just one of the antismoking “fantasy numbers” out there. Think about it: someone asks you if you want to quit smoking. If you say “No.” you KNOW that you’re going to be in for a lecture to educate you about how bad smoking is and how you SHOULD want to quit. So? What do you do? You say, “Yep. I want to quit, but I can’t. I’m addicted.”

            Voila! “70% say they want to quit.” I’m just surprised the number isn’t more like 99%!

            – MJM

          • IMSiegfried

            OK, got it! Thanks

          • IMSiegfried

            Though I quit for 10 years and I missed almost every single day. And when the shit hit the fan I was back to smoking a pack a day within a week. Even after 10 years of telling myself, no. So, I do believe there are those who are unable to quit or can’t stay quit because I’m one of them.

          • I’d never argue against that: Our biologies and psychologies are highly individualized. “Addiction” to smoking is highly noticeable because so many people feel pressured to quit either because of their own health worries or because of social pressures.

            But imagine if those same worries/pressures at those same levels were brought to bear on alcohol. How many “social drinkers” would suddenly realize that drinking was “more important” to them than they’d realized? For that matter, how many hidden and undiagnosed “caffeine addicts” might be hiding among us? For folks without a specific psycho-genetic tag, switching to decaf may not mean much more than blinking their eyes, while for those WITH the tag… well, for the most part they’ll probably deny their addiction by just telling themselves, “Yeah, I tried decaf. It just doesn’t taste right. I like my real coffee.”

            – MJM

          • michael banks

            Stop the sale of alchohol then……….zealot tw@t

          • Foxytrader

            That would go against my libertarian ideals plus history shows it’s a non-starter. It’s also an example of “whataboutery”. Off-topic w*nker.

        • AlanStrangis

          Demonstrably wrong. Nicotine abstinence means going cold turkey, which has about a 5% success rate over the course of one year, whereas vaping is 5-7 times more effective. You also might want to look up how addictive nicotine isn’t, using studies from the past 10 years, not relying on the “more addictive than heroin” meme started in the 1980s by a NY Times article.

          • Alan, the provenance of that “most addictive” meme:

            In 1985, on pgs. 1 and 5 of Section 6 of the Sunday Chicago Tribune’s Science section Sandra Blakeslee, a free lance reporter, did a piece that quite clearly claims that cutting down from smoking 20 cigarettes a day to just smoking one cigarette per day confers ZERO health benefits (in the detailed side graphic) (January 27, 1985) while also revealing the groundwork for the “more addictive than heroin” claim for smoking: Evidently the director of the Nat.Inst. on Drug Abuse, Richard Pollin, stated smoking was “the most serious and widespread form of addiction in the world… even worse than heroin.” Pollin did not literally say it was “more addictive than heroin,” — he was referring to the number of people whose health was affected worldwide by the two substances… with heroin use obviously being far less common.

            Sandra then went on to write the heavily headlined 1987 Henningfield/Benowitz NYTimes article, and built quite a colorful history for at least the next 20 years capitalizing on her early work with further antismoking articles.

            – MJM

        • michael banks

          I like nicotine and it keeps my weight down. I find it a great stress reliever and a pleasurable and very minor vice. Just as some people like a drink which damages your liver can cause domestic violence, car crashes and vomiting. People that vape seriously would find a cigarette disgusting unless they were forced to go back to tobacco through stupid legislation. Stop making comments about something you obviously know nothing about.

    • Pearl Anne Fearnley-Saundry


  • SteveW

    “…banning all but the smallest packs of rolling tobacco…” is not quite right.
    The regs prohibit packets of less than 30g, so in the UK the only compliant packs would be the 2Oz/50g packs.

  • Rollo10

    All at the behest of big Tobacco Corporations, who are losing out by this ‘trend’. The first move against ‘vaping’ by EU was the attempt to ban them, since having to back down, they have attacked in various ways, even places where one can legally vape? Next hit will be ‘taxation’.

  • Please, @all brits, vote for brexit. You have the power to take that EU in its current form down. Without GB as the most important and powerful member next to Germany, the EU won’t survive in the long shot.

    Besides, I was pro-EU 20 years ago, when we were asked to vote in an EU referendum. That was mid 90’s and I was young and thought that an European Union would be a great idea. Yeah, the *idea* was great, no doubt, the implementation was horrible though.

  • Alan Strangis wrote, “At the same time, you don’t see NEARLY as much “think of the children” fear-mongering regarding shampoo and perfume”

    It’s the same nonsense spun by the same people who terrorized the population with propagand about “the deadly threat” of wisps of secondary smoke exposure. You mention shampoo and children. Here’s a passage from “TobakkoNacht — The Antismoking Endgame,” p. 310 that you should consider before you trust ANYthing these people have to say:


    (It’s claimed that) formaldehyde in baby shampoo (at) concentrations of 610 parts per million (ppm) were “tiny” amounts of “no concern.”

    Really? Let’s consider a small (400 cubic meters) and rather poorly ventilated (six air changes per hour) restaurant with ten smokers, each lighting up twice per hour. Would you be worried about taking a child there after all the scary news and antismoking advertisements about formaldehyde in cigarette smoke? You’d probably whisk your baby out of there faster than a waiter could pick up a tip.

    According to government figures those ten smokers will produce a total of 17 mg of formaldehyde per hour, diluted in 2400 cubic meters of air, giving a concentration of .007 parts per million.

    That “deadly threat” you’d be fleeing from has an 87,000 times lower concentration of formaldehyde in its air than you’ll find in the baby shampoos described as having “trace amounts” of “no concern.” Of course, smoke has other chemicals, but their “threat concentrations” are generally even less than formaldehyde.

    There’s clearly a problem here. Either the threat of wisps of smoke has been greatly exaggerated, or the 87,000-times-more-deadly baby shampoos should have wiped out almost every child in America.

    Take your pick.


    See what I mean?

    – MJM

  • Space 1999

    I still smoke cigarettes a little, but have dramatically reduced my smoking since buying an e-cigarette. I feel a lot more healthy too and am almost off cigs completely. This legislation is utterly mad. Can I sue Brussels for getting me back on to cigarettes?

  • Malcolm

    The difference between the EU and Britain is that in Britain you are allowed to do anything as long as it is not forbidden by the law . Whereas in the EU you are not permitted to do anything unless it is permitted by the law!

  • stillstriving

    The inclusion of e-cig products into the EU tobacco regulations is the result of corporate lobbying by P.M. and B.A.T. There are more than 30,000 lobbyists in Brussels who access the EU Commission and its multitude of committees or their individual members on a virtually unregulated and unrecorded basis. Within the EU the interests of Big Business come a long way ahead of the health and welfare of its “citizens”. There is as much logic in this as including pencils in firearm regulations on the basis that the pen is mightier than the sword.

  • Yet the Cigars they smoke are immune to this . why !! because they stinking rich who own brussels smoke them

  • Atle Bjerke

    Well good luck Britain… gtfo! And hopefuly more of the eu-countrys will follow. EU “leeders” is nothing but power craveing psychopaths.

  • Evito

    Because it’s been far too long a time since European politicians were hanged at public squares. That is the only measure that can have any effect.

    Every time a silly directive is passed an eurocrat should hang in front of the parliament complex.