While many countries are racing to regulate e-cigarettes into non-existence, the United Kingdom has taken a remarkably different approach. In 2015, Public Health England released an evidence-based report proclaiming that e-cigs are 95 percent safer than tobacco cigarettes, Consequently, British doctors are now actually encouraged to recommend vaping to their smoking patients as a harm reduction strategy. Despite the ongoing turmoil within the EU and the implementation of the Tobacco Product Directive, the future of vaping in the UK looks bright. Nonetheless, each region has different rules for where you can vape, so mind the local laws while you’re out and about.
Vaping Laws in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom consists of four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The UK is still technically part of the European Union, but in a 2016 referendum, a slight majority of voters elected to withdraw from the international organization. This ongoing situation has been dubbed “Brexit.”
Brexit has many ramifications including changing how e-cigs are regulated in the region. As of now, the United Kingdom is technically beholden to the Tobacco Product Directive, or TPD. The TPD was adopted by the EU parliament to standardize regulations regarding smoking and tobacco sales. Unfortunately, although there is substantial evidence that e-cigs can help people quit smoking, European public health officials have largely sought to outlaw the devices.
As of 2017, e-cig manufacturers and distributors in EU countries must adhere to strict packaging and labeling rules. The UK government has adopted the minimal requirements of the TPD, but e-cig regulations are expected to further liberalize after the country officially splits from the EU.
Vaping in England
English public health officials were among the first in the world to advocate vaping as a tool for tobacco cessation and harm reduction. Two major national organizations, Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians, have independently released reports deeming e-cigs safer than tobacco. A recent government sponsored public health campaign included a television advertisement stating that e-cigs are a “great way to combat nicotine cravings and carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes.” Public Health England has even encouraged employers to permit vaping in the workplace so that e-cig users don’t have to be subjected to tobacco in smoking areas.
Travelers shouldn’t have any problems bringing their vaping goods across the border, but you should still be mindful of where you can vape in public. The BCC has composed an excellent guide to vaping etiquette in England.
Vaping in Scotland
Scotland’s vaping laws are identical to Northern Ireland’s, so vaping indoors is permissible in some places. Scotland just recently adopted age restrictions for purchasing vapor products.
Vaping in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has banned tobacco use in all indoor public places including workplaces and pubs. Fortunately, indoor vaping isn’t illegal, so it’s up to establishment owners to allow or prohibit e-cigs. Therefore, you should look for signs or ask before taking a puff indoors.
Vaping in Wales
Vaping laws in Wales are a little stricter than other parts of the United Kingdom. For example, Public Health Wales is currently trying to ban flavored e-liquids by arguing that sweet flavors intentionally appeal to children. The Welsh government has tried unsuccessfully to ban vaping in all public places, but e-cig use is prohibited in certain facilities such as hospitals. Some buildings are even equipped with “e-cig panic buttons” that concerned citizens can press if they catch someone vaping. You won’t go to jail, but you will be reprimanded by a recording of a child’s voice. To avoid such public shaming, always ask permission before vaping indoors