As the 3rd Annual Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference draws to a close, I have to say that over the two days I've heard some great accounts on what is going on with the E-cigarette and alternative nicotine industries at the moment. Some very well known and highly qualified people have stood before us and presented and discussed the growing innovation, regulation and difficulties that the industry will be coming across as we begin to see the end of a very turbulent year.
I will write up an account of everything I have heard that I feel will be of interest to the wider vaping community. To begin with I shall write an account of a discussion panel from the first day, on the TPD and its implementation throughout Europe and the UK in the coming months and years. On the panel were; Andrej Kuttruf – Chief Executive Officer, Evapo; Tony Price – Managing Director, Vesuvius Vapor; Charles Hamshaw-Thomas – Head of Corporate and Legal Affairs (Europe), Nicopure Labs.
The debate was a spirited one that took place over 45 minutes, but I shall condense that into a small article that will broadly touch on some of the points that the speakers made. It is important to remember that these are the opinions of our speakers and not necessarily that of Volcano Ecigs EU.
They started by discussing how the industry has come a long way in the last few years, and how the wider image has completely changed in the public eye. There seemed to be a view originally that Ecigs were medicinal, something to help someone quit smoking like a patch. Now we begin to see a shift in public perception that electronic cigarettes are a consumer product, something that can be more than a mere tool, something of an accessory like a phone or a piece of jewelry. This validation has been a huge boon to the industry and we have seen large markets opening up around the world, with Germany especially becoming an emerging market with great potential. This validation can be a double-edged sword, however, as now we must control how the wider public views vaping. Back in 2008, E-cig vendors were seen as cowboys and vaping was the wild west. Anything went in terms of liquid and devices with cheap electronics and home-made E-Liquid flooding the market. I think we can all agree that vaping has come a long way since then, better and safer devices are now the norm, liquids are of higher quality, and there is far more stability and trust in the product. Still, the perception can be that vaping is a bit too carefree and hobbyist, and for the industry to grow we need to start to shift away from this. It was also mentioned that, whilst there is a great liking for the eicg, the industry needs a lot more innovation in order to really spread its wings.
The TPD is rapidly approaching and we have already hit one of the first deadlines, but many vapers don't really know what it all means and how it will affect them. Better education in this regard is certainly needed to curb the panic that many feel, thinking their favourite brands and businesses will be closing up shop suddenly. This first deadline was for the vendors and not the vapers, as paperwork needed to be submitted for the liquids and devices need testing and approving before the next deadline. The next deadline will be 20th of May 2017, where all applications will have needed to be approved in order for vendors to continue selling. Most businesses have been busy getting this sorted, so don't fret as vapers, the industry will still be going strong come May next year.
This is where we hit another talking point. It was brought up that many have no idea what punishment will be given to vendors who sell outside of the new Article 20 regulations on liquid testing and tank sizes. This query was put to a room full of industry professionals and still no-one was able to answer it. There is the thought that many vendors will simply ignore the May 20th deadline as there is no cost benefit to following the regulations yet. With Brexit looming and that big question still undecided, the government cuts on the civil service, and the mountain of applications that the MHRA will need to trawl through, how long will it be until any action is taken against rule breakers at all? This is certainly a question that will need answering as we move forward.
It was also pointed out that Brexit will be unlikely to draw the industry out of the TPD turmoil. With the Prime Minister not hoping to action Article 50 until March, there will still be a two year withdrawal where the TPD will need to be enforced. Even then, the British government may wish to stick with the regulations as it will be easier than deciding on new ones during such a turbulent period. This is all in the event that Brexit will even happen, a debate which rages on even now.
Finally, the regulations themselves were discussed. It was agreed by all on the panel that the regulations themselves are confusing and, in some cases, nonsensical. We in the industry have always agreed that there need to be regulations, however regulating the size of tanks and bottle makes no sense at all. Neither does the regulation that stops E-cig vendors from advertising. When respected bodies such as Public Health England, report that vaping is 95% healthier for you than smoking, why make it harder for smokers to make that switch? Surely the government should be encouraging people to move from one to the other, for the sake of their health? We need to move forward as a united industry to tackle these issues. It was discussed that the biggest problem of the vaping community may just be the lack of focus and voice that can speak for the industry as a whole. Everything is currently too fragmented with too many pulling the cause in different directions. We need to unite and work together to ensure vaping doesn't die in the world of the TPD and Article 20.
Stay tuned for more on what happened at the Next Gen Conference.