Since emerging on the scene in the mid-2000s, e-cigarettes have quickly become a popular alternative to traditional cigarettes. In the UK, organizations like Public Health England recognize that vaping is significantly safer than smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. In fact, PHE has found that switching from smoking to vaping offers significant health benefits. It also credits e-cigarettes with helping more than 20,000 people quit smoking for good each year.
Because of the recognized benefits, the UK’s restrictions on vaping are limited. There are laws in place regarding nicotine strength and e-liquid container sizes, and commuters are banned from vaping on most forms of public transportation. Aside from that, though, the UK has a pretty relaxed view on e-cigarettes and their use.
In other nations, however, simply owning an e-cigarette could land you in prison. While the strictest laws have been enacted in places like the United Arab Emirates and Thailand, there are also places in Europe where vaping is banned. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key differences between vaping laws in the UK and in the European Union.
UK Vape Laws
As previously mentioned, most UK vaping laws relate to the manufacture and sale of vaping supplies. E-liquids may contain no more than 20 percent nicotine, and their containers may not hold any more than 10 ml. Vape tanks and cartridges can only contain 2 ml of e-liquid, making the large tanks that are common in places like the U.S. actually illegal in the United Kingdom.
Currently, there are no regions in the UK where vaping is banned outright. Property owners, however, do have the right to ban the use of e-cigarettes in their establishments. Vaping is banned on most UK trains, planes, buses, etc. The practice has also been banned on train platforms to ensure the comfort and safety of all passengers. It is banned on the London Underground, and if you are caught doing it while driving, you could be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention, because the vapour clouds can obstruct a driver’s vision.
Europe and European Union Vape Laws
In 2014, the EU enacted the Tobacco Product Directive (TPD) to create a degree of consistency in the regulations surrounding tobacco sales throughout the Union. While e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, they got caught up in the TPD and therefore, many of the laws that apply to smoking in the EU also apply to vaping.
The size and strength regulations are the same in the EU as in the UK. E-liquid bottles can hold more than 10mls but you can only sell e-liquid containing nicotine in 10ml bottles or smaller. Tanks and cartridges can hold no more than 2ml, and e-liquids cannot contain more than 20mg/ml of nicotine. All e-liquids sold in Europe must come with warning labels and must undergo emissions testing. E-cigarette and e-liquid products must go through a review process prior to being sold to the public. This process can take up to six months to complete.
While these are the broad laws regarding vaping in the European Union, certain nations have their own regulations. Here are a few notable ones that you should be aware of:
Presently, Armenia is considering an outright ban on e-cigs. While they are still legal as of the date of this editorial, supplies have become difficult to find.
Vaping is legal in Belgium, but the products may not be purchased by anyone under the age of 16. E-liquids must include warning labels printed in German, Dutch and French, and vaping is only allowed in areas where smoking cigarettes is permitted.
Since Norway does not belong to the European Union, it has its own laws regarding vaping. The use of e-cigarettes is permitted, but the sale of products that contain nicotine is not. Norwegians may only purchase vaping products abroad if they can prove that they are doing so to stop smoking traditional cigarettes. Long-term visitors to Norway should have a doctor’s note stating that they are vaping to help them quit smoking.
Vaping is legal in Poland, but it cannot be done in public places. Also, advertising e-cigarette products is banned.
Russia is not a part of the European Union, and currently, the nation has relaxed laws regarding vaping. The Health Ministry is working to ban smoking and vaping in restaurants and bars, and Moscow is considering regulating e-cigarettes just like tobacco cigarettes.
Spain adopted the TPD’s vaping guidelines in 2017. The use of e-cigarettes is also banned in places where smoking is not permitted, such as inside enclosed public spaces and directly outside of places like restaurants and hospitals.
Turkey is not a member of the EU, and it does allow vaping. However, the sale of e-cigarettes and e-liquids is banned. Many travellers say, though, that supplies are widely available in popular holiday destinations.
The UK and Europe tend to have much more relaxed vaping laws than other parts of the world. In Thailand, for example, you could face up to 10 years in prison for simply having an e-cigarette device. In most places in the UK and Europe, though, you will simply be asked to stop if you are caught vaping in an area where doing so is not allowed. You could also face prosecution and fines in certain situations, though, so it is important to understand the laws before pulling out your device.
The laws surrounding the sale and use of e-cigarettes and vape liquids are changing rapidly, so it is always a good idea to do some research prior to visiting an area with which you are unfamiliar. Spending some time researching the local laws could save you loads of embarrassment and, potentially, money.