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Guest post by Friske Drag – E-sigaretter.

In the United States, ownership of a vape shop comes with plenty of challenges. Even if you’re fortunate enough not to have competition from other vape shops, you still have to compete against local gas stations and convenience stores selling a certain popular vaping device that looks suspiciously like a USB drive. There’s also the uncertainty of eventual FDA regulation. Is the American vaping industry going to come crashing down in 2022? What’s going to happen in the meantime? Wasn’t August 8, 2016 supposed to be the date after which no new vaping products could be released? Why are so many new products coming out anyway? Is a vape shop eventually going to get in trouble for carrying all of those new products? All of the uncertainties can make your head spin.

The next time you begin to fret about your challenges as a vape shop owner, it might comfort you to know that life isn’t easy for any vaping business. Elsewhere in the world, though, vaping businesses deal with an entirely different set of problems. Do you sometimes wish that you could skip to the end and know, once and for all, what the legal framework will be for the American vaping industry? Be careful what you wish for.

Introducing the Tobacco Products Directive

Passed in 2014 and implemented in 2016, the Tobacco Products Directive is a law that places limits on the marketing and sale of tobacco and vaping products in the European Union. The United Kingdom has implemented the TPD, and Norway will likely follow suit in 2019. These are some of the key restrictions that the TPD places on the vaping industry.

  • Vaping tanks can hold no more than 2 ml of e-liquid.
  • E-liquid can contain no more than 20 mg of nicotine per ml.
  • Bottles of e-liquid containing nicotine can be no larger than 10 ml.
  • Many forms of advertising and promotion are prohibited.

The vast majority of European vape shop owners abide by the TPD. It is, after all, the law – but some people feel as though it’s a law that conveniently ignores the way people vape in the real world. Let’s look at some of the interesting situations that the TPD has created for vapers and vape shop owners.

Satisfying Sub-Ohm Vapers (Three Puffs at a Time)

When the TPD was ratified in 2014, sub-ohm vaping had barely begun to take hold. A 2 ml tank was smaller than what many American vapers were using at the time, but it wasn’t small enough to be impractical. Today, though, the picture is very different. With new technologies such as mesh coils and tanks with as many as 12 heating wires per coil head, sub-ohm tanks generate more vapor than ever. In the United States, people are using 5-8 ml tanks and draining them several times a day. Imagine using the same type of tank – but having to refill it four times as often. If you think that’s bad, imagine being the person who needs to sell that tank and explain that, no, it’s really not as inconvenient as it seems.

E-Liquid Available Here (Chemistry Degree Not Included)

If you think that using 2 ml tanks must be inconvenient for European vapers, imagine what it’s like to buy bottle after bottle of e-liquid because the maximum legal bottle size of 10 ml isn’t enough for even one full day of vaping. There’s a workaround for that problem – it’s called short fill e-liquid. The TPD bottle size limit doesn’t apply to nicotine-free e-liquids, so e-liquid makers have taken to selling large bottles of nicotine-free e-liquid that aren’t completely full. Depending on the size of the short fill bottle, you need to empty the contents of one or two “nicotine shots” into the bottle to achieve your desired nicotine strength. Hopefully your desired nicotine strength is 3 mg, because that’s the default for almost every short fill e-liquid and nicotine shot on the market. If you want any other nicotine strength, you’ll have to do a bit of calculating – and if you’re a European vape shop owner, you’ll have to explain the entire process to customers about 83 times each day.

You Can Exist (Just Don’t Tell Anyone)

One of the most comically confusing statements in the TPD is that no package or display for e-cigarettes, e-liquids or refill cartridges can promote said product or encourage its consumption. This rule is somewhat reminiscent of the plain packaging laws for tobacco products that are now sweeping the world. Health authorities don’t want tobacco companies to cultivate positive perceptions about their brands because they want smoking rates to continue declining. The law does, however, curtail the efforts of vaping companies to evangelize their products to smokers. It’s also funny in light of events such as the 2017 United Kingdom Stoptober campaign, in which the UK National Health Service encouraged people to quit smoking by using e-cigarettes.

You Can Have Nicotine (But You Can’t Buy It)

At this point, it’s probably sounding to you as though European vapers and vape shop owners have to jump through a lot of hoops to remain on the right side of the law – and they do. If all of the above sounds crazy to you, though, consider what things are like in Norway. Norway is part of the European Economic Area but isn’t part of the EU and has not yet implemented the TPD. It is illegal, in fact, to sell e-liquid with nicotine in Norway – though it Is legal to import it for personal use from other nations in the European Economic Area.

The next time you find yourself lamenting the difficulties that you have as a vape shop owner in the United States, try pretending that you owned a vape shop in Norway and couldn’t sell anything but nicotine-free e-liquids. You can tell your customers that it’s OK to import nicotine, but you can’t help them find it. How would you approach that challenge?