Welcome again semi-regular guest poster Helen.  As always, guest post opinions are those of their author.

The e-cigarette industry not only offers hope to the many smokers who wish to quit without giving up the sensation of inhaling nicotine or other vapours; it is also a burgeoning business, with around 21 per cent of all smokers in the US being e-cigarette users. In 2014 alone, e-cigarette sales amount to about $73.3 million dollars, with numbers rising further in 2015 and the first half of 2016. E-cigarettes are here to stay yet there is surprisingly little standardization of regulations across the globe.

The EU and the United States provide a glaring example of how different e-cigarette regulations can be. Draft rules in the US, for instance, will require governmental approval before changes are made to vaping products, while the EU Tobacco Products Directive requires e-cigarette companies to provide notification (no approval is necessary) six months before any change is made. Companies such as Nicoventures (owned by British American Tobacco) will be addressing delegates at the EuroScience Open Forum 2016 (a biennial pan-European science conference focusing on research and innovation) to be held on 26th July, to call for uniform regulations to govern vaping products. Currently, the difference in regulations results in a huge burden for smaller companies, who may be unable to adapt their products to different rules in different jurisdictions.

Normative inconsistencies are an impediment to growth and innovation, which are necessary if e-cigarettes are to continue to potentially reduce the harms caused by smoking traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes help quitters fight cravings in a far more amenable manner. Marina Trani, Head of Research and Development at Nicoventures, notes that e-cigarettes can play an important role in tobacco harm reduction: “Never before have we had products that are both consumer-acceptable and less risky. And this is just the beginning – I think we’re going to see many more innovations and developments in nicotine products over the next few years,” she says.

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British American Tobacco, the first to launch an e-cigarette, has long sought to develop international product standards and is currently working to set European standards for the industry. In 2015, this company released a Best Practice Guide to help companies comply with toxicological risk assessment guidelines. The Guide helps researchers assess the safety of different flavours for inhalation as opposed to ingestion. Trani notes that more standards should be established to protect consumers, increase awareness regarding upcoming products, promote global harmonization and ultimately, the type of innovation that could save many lives.

The calls for standardization are not new; in September 2015, scientists and entrepreneurs at the Global Tobacco & Nicotine Forum (held in Bologna, Italy) called for the establishment of a regulatory framework for e-cigarette manufacturers. Priorities should include safety, product quality and innovation, distribution and marketing. The media has questioned the quality and safety of e-cigarettes because of the way the market emerged: initially, hundreds of small business began manufacturing this product, with bigger companies following suit. Governments have been unsure as to how to regulate products to ensure that the health of consumers is not being harmed. In April, 2015, AFNOR (the French standardization body) published the world’s first voluntary standards for e-cigarettes and liquids. The regulations were aimed at manufacturers, suppliers, laboratories and distributors; they were designed to make consumers feel more at ease with using e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, or simply as a pleasurable pastime – since e-liquids come in many flavors that do not contain nicotine.

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One of the most important recommendations made by AFNOR involves preventing the risk of overheating of products. The group has also created a list of banned products and established requirements for containers. Manufacturers should also be required to be fully transparent, sharing all information regarding their products with consumers. Bertrand Dautzenberg, President of the AFNOR standardization committee for vaping products, noted that the standards, though drafted in a record amount of time, would help reduce the number of unsafe, low quality products on the market, thus ensuring “a mass exodus” away from traditional cigarettes, which are a proven cause of premature death worldwide. AFNOR also created a standard regarding emissions, noting that almost 60 groups were involved in drafting regulations that could form the basis of the global regulations the industry so sorely needs.

Helen Dawson works as a writer – prior to this she was in the healthcare sector where she worked with families and individuals, helping them to achieve better diet and fitness. She’s now a stay at home mom and has two daughters. She fits her work around her family and feels she’s now finally got the balance right!