What are the Laws on E-Cigarettes in the UK?

The last year or so has seen a huge boom in the availability and use of electronic cigarette products, and opinion has certainly been split. There are some who welcome these safer alternatives to smoking real cigarettes, and some who believe the practice of using one will simply normalise smoking and the use of nicotine, encouraging more people to take up the habit. Whatever your opinion, there is legal guidance in the UK that you might want to be aware of.


The first and most obvious is that e-cigarettes can be used in enclosed public spaces, unlike traditional tobacco products. They cause no harm to ‘passive smokers’ and so can be used virtually wherever and whenever because they do not produce any smoke. It should be noted however, that some government buildings and independent companies have stated that they do not allow the use of e-cigarettes on their premises, and they are well within their rights to do so.

The next big issue is that, although the EU has made no moves to do so, the UK is planning on making it illegal to purchase electronic smoking products for under-18s. Their grounds are that the health implications are not currently known, and that the use of e-cigarettes could lead young people onto the real thing. This is generally being welcomed by most parties, though some question whether it is fair given that there are some under-16s that smoke, and would potentially benefit health-wise if they could move tobacco-free.

One other legal situation that many people are unaware of is that e-cigarettes are going to be the jurisdiction of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which means that they will be treated just like medicines are. This should in theory mean that all manufacturers will eventually require licences, and the ones that are currently unlicensed may end up being withdrawn. Bibra Toxicology Advice & Consulting are one of the companies performing tests on market hopefuls, which must go through both MHRA approval, and a variety of chemical safety requirements.

As the e-cigarette market is still in its relative infancy, it is very likely that laws and regulations will change in the short term, and if you’re a manufacturer looking to bring a product to market, or are an interested consumer, then it’s certainly worth keeping one eye on the latest developments.


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