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The winds of change are blowing once more in the nicotine industry, with the new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) coming into force on 20 May 2017. While the potential impact of the Directive on tobacco retailers has been widely publicised, the new rules for nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes and refills remain something of a grey area for many independent shop owners. Here we aim to shed some light on the legislation and provide e-cigarette retailers with some useful information to help them navigate their way through the changes.

What is the TPD?

The TPD is an EU Directive which was introduced in the UK on 20 May 2016, with a one-year transition period. This ends in just 10 days’ time.

What do you need to know?

As well as tobacco stockists, the new legislation affects those stocking, or planning to stock, e-cigarettes and related items. From 20 May 2017 all e-cigarette and refill container products must meet new TPD standards and be notified to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) a minimum of six months before being sold in the UK market.

Any products not listed on the MHRA’s website cannot be sold legally, and any retailer found to be stocking them will face fines or criminal prosecution.

What are the new product restrictions?

  • From 20 May e-cigarette tanks will be limited to 2ml capacity, with the maximum volume of e-liquid for sale in a single refill container limited to a capacity of 10ml
  • The maximum permitted strength for new e-liquids will be 20mg/ml
  • Certain ingredients will be banned, including colourings, taurine and caffeine. Under the EU Directive countries also have the option to ban flavours, however, the UK has elected not to do so
  • The products themselves and their packaging must be child-resistant and tamper-proof
  • There are new requirements for labelling. According to the UK Government website these include listing all ingredients used in quantities of 0.1% or more and the inclusion of a safe usage guide within the product packaging, as well as specific health warnings.

What are the new marketing restrictions?

The TPD brings with it various marketing restrictions.  Below is an overview of what is and isn’t allowed under the new Directive.

Trade shows
Online tutorials and information
Leaflets and posters
TV and radio advertising
Product placement
Advertising in newspapers and magazines
Cold marketing emails
Online promotions
Social media marketing

How can you protect yourself and your customers?

Retailers themselves are not responsible for testing and submission, this should be done by the producers and importers. You will, however, need to make your own submissions if you are importing liquids or devices from outside the UK, unless your supplier can confirm that the specific product has already been notified.

Any imported products you have in stock that have not yet been submitted to the MHRA must be withdrawn from sale by 20 May. You may still submit them but you will be prohibited from selling them unless or until they are added to the MHRA’s published list.

Although you do not need any special license to sell e-cigarettes, you must check that the products you stock are compliant, which you can do here.

If you are concerned about an e-cigarette or refill container product, this should be reported to the MHRA. You can do this through the Yellow Card reporting system or by sending an email to [email protected].

If you sell e-cigarettes to customers outside the UK your business must be registered. You can find more information and an up-to-date list of registered retailers here.

All retailers should have a working knowledge of the General Products Safety Regulations (2005), and a good knowledge of battery safety is also useful for this market. As with alcohol and tobacco products, play close attention to age restrictions.

Always make sure you have adequate cover in place, and that your suppliers have product liability cover.

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