Vendors, explosions and the TPD
Category : vaping
In this post I’d like to make two suggestions to all vape vendors. This isn’t something I really want to do, because many of you are doing a great job for the vaping community, but right now I feel I have to raise both these points. What you do with them is up to you, but I hope you’ll at least consider them.
Exploding batteries: It’s not your fault, but it is your problem
The first one is to ask that you please supply all lithium ion batteries in a proper battery box. Most of us know the potential dangers of this sort of technology, if it’s abused or mistreated. Unfortunately some idiots don’t. I know it isn’t your job, as vendors, to educate people about basic safety before selling them things, but images of grilled numpties are not the sort of publicity vaping needs right now. So don’t do what one German vendor did to me recently:
When someone orders batteries, send them out in a box. Basic protective cases hold two 18650s or four 18350s, and cost 40p on ebay. You can probably get them wholesale for half that. Anyway, it’s packaging; you can add it to your shipping charge.
Brexit, the TPD, and why it’s time to end ignorance
The EU’s Tobacco Products Directive goes into effect on the 20th of May this year. The British government doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about it, and has watered it down as much as possible, but they have no choice: It’s been voted through by our overlords in Brussels, so it has to become British law. This is awkward for the government because they’ve committed to a referendum on the 23rd of June, and they’d rather like us to vote to stay in the EU. Anyone who’s just been to the local vape shop and found that their favourite liquid has been banned by a Brussels directive is, I’d guess, not too likely to vote that way.
So the government has done something devious, and staged the introduction of the law so its full effects won’t become obvious until May next year. That way they can keep the EU happy by putting it on the statute books, but put off the moment vapers realise what’s been done to them until the referendum is out of the way.
Just in case anyone’s under any illusions about what the TPD does, here’s a quick reminder:
- Ban on all liquids stronger than 20mg/ml
- Ban on all liquid bottles larger than 10ml
- Drip rate regulation for bottles – which effectively bans glass bottles
- Ban on all atomisers with a tank capacity greater than 2ml
- Ban on all atomisers that aren’t leak-proof, child-proof and tamper-proof
- Ban on advertising
- New products can’t be sold until six months after they’ve been officially registered
There’s also a clause that says if any three EU members ban a type of refillable atomiser the EU Commission can impose a blanket ban in all member states.
There’s even more bad news. Manufacturers and importers will have to register every device they sell, along with every strength and flavour of liquid. The expense of running this system won’t be paid by the EU; it will be paid by vendors. It will cost £220 to submit the paperwork for each product – and the paperwork will just be shoved straight into a cabinet, because it isn’t actually meant to achieve anything. Then there’s a further £60 charge per year (per product, remember) for the dust that collects on it.
Notification fees will grind down your choices
Think about that for a moment. Lots of us enjoy the sheer variety of liquids on the market, but how is that variety going to survive the cost of the TPD notification system? Take my favourite liquid brand, Manabush. Right now Manabush sell sixteen different flavours, and you can get each of them in three nicotine strengths. That’s a total of 48 products, and in May Manabush is going to have to register them all – at a total cost of £10,560. For a small business that is not a trivial expense. Then, every year, there will be another bill for £2,880. Every time they add a new flavour to the range there’s another £220 to pay, and the annual bill goes up by £60.
And remember – Manabush doesn’t get anything for all this money, except the EU’s permission to keep on doing what they were doing perfectly well anyway. It’s just another unnecessary expense imposed by ignorant bureaucrats, who mostly don’t understand business because they’ve never had a real job.
So when the TPD starts to bite, Manabush are going to look at the product range and start checking sales figures. Any liquid that doesn’t make enough profit to cover the TPD fees, plus the time and effort it takes to fill out the paperwork, is going to disappear – and they’ll be more reluctant to introduce any new ones, because who knows if they’ll sell well enough to make the cost and effort worthwhile? This is what’s going to happen at every manufacturer and importer of vape gear from now on.
Choice is going to be even more limited than you expected, because many products not actually banned by the TPD will be killed off by the fees.
Unfortunately there are a handful of vapers, including some of the organisers of UK Vapefest, who have spent the last two years playing down the impact of the TPD for unsavoury reasons of their own. They constantly tell people that it won’t make any difference; that products will get better and safer; that it’s nothing to worry about. And thanks to David Cameron’s frog-boiling strategy of delaying the law’s full impact, some people are going to keep on believing their malicious tripe until the hammer crashes down on 20 May 2017.
Promote the truth
So here’s my second suggestion to vendors. Once you’ve sorted out your battery boxes, knock up a logo for your website and add it to your images of any product that will be banned by the TPD. Every tank that holds over 2ml; every glass bottle; every 30ml bottle; every 24mg liquid. Let your customers know what will be disappearing from the market next May, and make bloody sure they know whose fault it is. If everyone who buys vape gear starts getting that message pounded home from 20 May onwards, hopefully by 23 June they’ll realise exactly how bad it’s going to be. And they’ll also know they can vote to change it.
Update: I’ve just been made aware in the comments that there are other significant costs involved – testing and literature searches. I’d assumed that was only for those who braved the road to medical licensing but no, it isn’t – it’s for everyone. How much will this cost? Who knows, but a quick search has turned up estimates from £3,000 to £8,000 per product. For most small companies that’s completely unrealistic. It’s not likely to affect hardware so much, because most of that’s imported and we’ll probably see single large importers emerge for each main brand. For most juice makers, however, it’s the end of the road.