Most countries in Europe are part of an economic partnership called the European Union, which issues guidelines for individual countries to make their own laws regulating consumer goods. Countries can make their own regulations in addition to the EU guidelines. Prior to 2014, EU vaping regulations were very scattered and there was no uniform law in place across the entire EU.
In 2014, the EU enacted the Tobacco Product Directive, or TPD, to standardize rules regarding tobacco sales throughout the region. Following the example of other governments across the world, the EU opted to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, even though they are not actually tobacco products. This trend is due to a combination of scientific ignorance and intentional lobbying on the part of large tobacco companies that don’t want e-cigs competing in their market.
About EU Vaping Regulations
The TPD is now technically in full effect, but laws may be enforced differently due to legal challenges that have arisen against the directive. Nonetheless, the TPD dictates the following:
- E-liquid bottles are limited to 10ml
- E-cigarette tanks are limited to 2ml
- Nicotine content in e-liquids is limited to 2 percent or 20mg/ml
- E-liquids must come with warning labels
- New vape products require a review process that can take up to six months to complete
- All e-liquids must undergo emissions testing
While the TPD isn’t as restrictive as the U.S. FDA’s vaping regulations, the EU directive has still disrupted the vaping market as small manufacturers and shops struggle to meet the new rules. Fortunately for e-cigarette users, e-cigs are still easy to come by throughout most of Europe. Now, let’s look at the vaping laws in specific countries.
Vaping in Armenia
The vaping laws in Armenia are currently unclear, but the government is considering a total ban on e-cigs. Online reports indicate that vaping supplies are already hard to find in the country.
Vaping in Austria
Austria offers an interesting case study in how quickly vaping laws can change. Before 2015, e-cigs were regulated as medical products, but a court ruled the law unconstitutional. In 2016, the legislature proposed a new set of strict laws that prevent advertising and require approval of vapor products by the Ministry of Health.
Vaping in Belgium
E-cigs are legal for use and sale. Resellers can import vapor goods so long as they obtain government approval. Youth under age 16 cannot buy e-cigarette products, and e-liquids must come with warning labels in Dutch, German and French. Vaping is only allowed where smoking is permitted.
Vaping in France
A 2016 public hearing resulted in a report that concluded e-cigs can be a “complementary tool for risk reduction.” French advocacy groups even led legal challenges to the TPD; however, the new Minister of Health has been critical of vaping, so the country could default to the EU guidelines.
Vaping in Germany
Germany follows the TPD regulations. E-cigs are easy to find, but sales are restricted to consumers 18 and up. As one of the more progression nations in the EU, Germany continues to allow the e-cigarette industry to operate in their country, despite the looming EU vaping regulations.
Vaping in Greece
Greece fully adopted the TPD guidelines last year, and legislators are mulling broader bans on e-cigarette use in public, as well as restricting online sales.
Vaping in Italy
Italy currently follows the minimal TPD standards. E-liquids were once heavily taxed, but a court ruled the burdensome tax unconstitutional in 2015. Since then, prices on vapor goods have dropped and the number of vapers has increased. Where you can vape depends on where you are. If you’re at the international Vapitaly exhibition in Rome, then you’re probably OK.
Vaping in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has added a few rules on top of the TPD guidelines. Vaping in public is allowed, but, as per EU vaping regulations, advertising electronic cigarettes and vaping products is prohibited. Customers in vape shops can pay €0.10 to test e-liquids.
Vaping in Poland
Poland’s vaping laws are more in line with the U.S., which means no vaping in public and no advertising.
Vaping in Russia
Because Russia is not part of the E.U., the vaping market has been able to flourish. Many Russian cities have “vape cafes” where vapers can commune, but the Health Ministry is now trying to ban both electronic cigarettes and smoking in bars and restaurants. In Moscow, the local government is considering regulating e-cigarettes like tobacco cigarettes, which would add a slew of new restrictions.
Vaping in Spain
In the summer of 2017, the Spanish government passed Royal Decree 579/2017(en espanol), which enacted the TPD’s guidelines for the country of Spain. In line with the EU vaping regulations, vape shops in Spain will be restricted in selling atomizers filled with more than 2ml of e-liquid, as well as e-liquid bottles larger than 10ml. Vaping is banned in all areas that smoking is also not allowed. This includes enclosed public spaces and directly outside public spaces such as hospitals and restaurants.
Vaping in Turkey
Because Turkey isn’t a part of the European Union, they are not subject to EU vaping regulations. Turkish vaping laws are fairly liberal. Nonetheless, public indoor vaping is banned. There have been no reports of problems getting vapor products through Turkish customs.
Vaping in the U.K.
The United Kingdom is in the process of withdrawing from the E.U. Fortunately for vapers in the Kingdom, the U.K. has the most progressive vaping policies in the world. The next installment of our travel guide will explore the state of e-cigs in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Once you’re in the E.U., you shouldn’t have to go through customs as you travel from country to country, but non-member nations have stricter border security. Check the rules of the country you’ll arrive in to make sure you don’t have any problems with customs officials. Vaping laws are still in a state of flux throughout much of Europe, so keep an eye on pending legislation in places where you intend to travel.