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The new European Union Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) entered into force on 19 May 2014, revising the 2001 Directive of the same name. It introduced new regulatory controls on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, sometimes referred to as ‘vapes’), as well as setting out requirements on tobacco products. The UK Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 implemented the TPD in full. This Commons Library Briefing Paper outlines the product requirements for e-cigarettes and identifies where national regulations have gone beyond what is in the TPD.

The briefing does not cover the environmental impact of e-cigarettes. This is addressed in the Library debate pack on the Environmental impact of disposable vapes (November 2022).

Tobacco Products Directive

The European Union Tobacco Products Directive entered into force on 19 May 2014, with the UK Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 implementing the TPD in full across the UK. According to the European Commission, the TPD’s aim is to “improve the functioning of the internal market for tobacco and related products while ensuring a high level of health protection for European citizens”. Article 20 of the TPD introduced new regulatory controls for nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and refill containers, though it does not cover nicotine-containing products that are authorised as medicines. These controls aimed to ensure:

  • minimum standards for the safety and quality of all e-cigarettes and refill containers;
  • that information is provided to consumers so that they can make informed choices;
  • an environment that protects children from starting to use these products.

National regulations

The TPD did not seek to harmonise rules on:

  • smoke-free environments;
  • domestic advertising;
  • domestic sales;
  • age restrictions;
  • nicotine–free cigarettes;
  • flavourings of e-cigarettes.

Instead, these elements could all be regulated at a domestic, rather than EU, level.

England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland each introduced age restrictions on e-cigarettes that prohibit their sale to, and their purchase on behalf of, under 18s. Further details on age restrictions are set out in the Commons Library briefing on Advertising, marketing and promotion of vaping products. In 2015/16 the Welsh Government attempted to go further and introduce controls on the use of e-cigarettes in public places, though the Bill was subsequently rejected by the Welsh Assembly.

The Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 were amended by the Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products (Amendment Etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and 2020 to enable tobacco and e-cigarette regulation to continue to function following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Further research from the Commons Library

Further Library research is available on the tobacco and vaping hub.

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