Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Regulation of electronic cigarettes

EU Tobacco Products Directive trumps debate on regulation of electronic cigarettes

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 30 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5897
  1. Jonathan H Bagley, lecturer in mathematics1
  1. 1School of Mathematics, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  1. Jonathan.Bagley{at}

With reference to Ashton’s editorial on the regulation of electronic cigarettes,1 all the debates currently taking place are academic because the UK government is obliged in 2016 to adopt the European Union Tobacco Products Directive into UK law.

Two of the most important of the many restrictions placed on electronic cigarettes by the directive are that the liquid strength of nicotine is to be restricted to 2% and refillable devices are to be permitted only when there is no possibility of leakage. However, around a quarter of current vapers, those who previously smoked 20 or more cigarettes a day, choose stronger liquids than 2% nicotine. In addition, guaranteeing no possibility of leakage of refillable devices is impossible, and so all refillable devices currently on sale will be banned.

The inevitable consequence of the Tobacco Products Directive is that only disposable cartridge “cig-a-like” devices will be available. For the former smoker of 20 cigarettes a day, these cost about around £50 a week to run, compared with £8 for refillable devices using ready mixed liquid, or £3 using liquid mixed at home from 7.2% nicotine concentrate.

In view of the directive, the tobacco control industry can choose to be as generous, or vindictive, as it wishes towards vapers. The outcome will be the same.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5897


  • Competing interests: None declared.