The following is a guest post. You know the drill, opinions are the author’s not mine, etc etc, close cover before striking.
If you’re in the UK, you’re probably very, very sick of hearing about Brexit and the freefall into which it’s plunged your country. If you’re elsewhere, you’re undoubtedly confused about what on earth Britain has done to itself. Doubtless the impact upon the vaping industry won’t be the first thing that springs to mind. However, with Britain about to more or less attempt to rebuild itself from the ground up, a lot of industries will be watching it with interest – particularly those which are subject to international restrictions. The vaping industry is just one such, and the potential removal of EU legislation set to hit vaping in Britain prior to Brexit could see interesting repercussions within the world of vaping and tobacco.
The EU as an institution very closely monitors the health of its citizens. It also takes some pre-emptive measures to try and ensure the maintenance of good health (sometimes this is controversial, and leads to accusations of ‘nanny state-ism’). This has led to a fairly hefty burden of legislation and ‘red tape’ which, in part, brought about the frustrations which saw many Brits protest via the Brexit vote. Tobacco and other such demonstrably unhealthy things are subject to a lot of EU legislation designed to make users aware of their inherent risks, and to control their supply to those who cannot be held responsible for their actions. Vaping, despite being considered a healthy alternative to smoking by many, has been put under the EU spotlight, and consequently been slapped with its own set of restrictions. These include restrictions on advertising the products, and lengthy licensing approval periods for suppliers and manufacturers. The UK took a gentle approach to implementing these restrictions back in May, and many people believe that Brexit may thus mean a relaxation of vaping regulations when (and if) the UK does exit the EU. However, there may be rather more to it than a simple slashing of all EU red tape.
Britain’s relationship with vaping is complicated. For a start, Britain’s National Health Service is more or less entirely taxpayer funded, meaning that any government has a vested interest in keeping the health of its citizens in good working order. While many right-wing ‘Leave’ campaigners are notably pro privatising Britain’s NHS and replacing it with independently funded health schemes, outright moves to do so would cause widespread national outrage. So any new British government would have to think very carefully indeed about getting rid of legislation which could make it easier for people to damage their health and put more strain on an already stretched health service. According to some views, vaping could be an excellent way in which to actually improve the overall health of the nation – the NHS has, in the past, endorsed e-cigarettes as a positive way in which to help people quit smoking. However, recent controversies surrounding the overall ‘healthiness’ of vaping may put things into a rather different perspective for Britain.
Britain VS Smoking
Compared to other European countries. Britain’s attitude towards smoking has always been reasonably hard-line. While removing EU legislation against e-cigs could put British vaping businesses in a more favourable position, there is a strong chance that they could be replaced with even more restrictive legislation. Britain’s record on health-based initiatives is one of greater rather than lesser legislation – particularly when it comes to smoking. Britain was taking action against smoke in public places as early as 1868, when it mandated non-smoking carriages for the sake of non-smokers’ health. They banned the sale of tobacco to children far earlier than most other nations (1908), and began taxing cigarettes heavily in the 1940s, as a link between lung cancer and smoking was more firmly established. Cigarette adverts on British television were banned in 1965 – eight years before joining the EU. Britain’s relationship with smoking has continued in this manner, with legislation in Britain to reduce smoking always pre-empting European legislation. Smoking in Britain is consequently at far lower levels than it is in many EU nations. So this could go one of two ways: should Britain decide that vaping is bad for you, past experience dictates that Britain will introduce restrictive legislation to combat its effect upon the British public. However, should Britain decide that vaping is good for you, the British vaping industry could find itself getting government funding via the NHS, and enjoying something of a boom time. With scientists and academics preparing to flee for better funded climes abroad, however, the decision on the healthiness or otherwise of vaping is unlikely to emerge from Britain itself.