Disturbing news out of Britiain via James at Ashtray Blog. It seems that the British version of the FDA, the MHRA or Medicines and Heathcare products Regulatory Agency has opened a consultation on e-cigarettes which most likely is a preamble to regulation which could be interpreted in such a manner as to effectively result in an outright ban of product. (See the consultation form and accompanying documents here.)
On the surface of it, it seems a reasonable response to a new growing unregulated product. No one would argue against some form of quality control. However, one worries about the following:
1. Strictly limiting who sells this product could make it less available than cigarettes which is enough under many circumstances to make cigarettes the rational choice when deciding between the two. In other words, limiting the availability nudges the population toward the more harmful choice, the same choice that the same government keeps trying to discourage by other means.
2. Demanding manufacturing guidelines when none of the manufacturers are domestic can only lead to, at the best, significant lapses in supply, and more likely, the abandoning of the market for less regulated regions. This is not to argue against product regulation in general but simply to point out one negative that could threaten the whole category.
3. So far, there appears to be not much of a black market in these devices but increased regulation could create one, and ironically, it would be driven by health concerns.
In the document, three options for post consultative action are laid out, with the MHRA indicating their preferred choice which would result in all devices being removed from the market within 21 days and then requiring some sort of certification to be made available. This would result in some individuals returning to the more harmful smoking, and as bad, many smokers not ever trying this much safer source of nicotine.
One hopes in the end that reasonable voices will prevail but the document contains a passage that indicates this is unlikely. The wholly discredited FDA assay of ecigarettes is referred to as evidence of the potential harm of ecigarettes and as good cause for this sort of action.
I hope that I am wrong and there are at least a few smokers (or vapers) on the MHRA committee who will help steer them to some common sense. In the meanwhile, I encourage all to enter their suggestions into the consultation process (link here)