It's important to understand the vaping laws in the UK to successfully sell vape products. As an alternative to smoking, vaping is a globally recognized industry that’s continuously growing in popularity. In 2020 The Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that there are about 3 million vapers in Great Britain. According to studies that analysed vaping data between 2014 and 2022, it has shown that between this time period vaping retail sales went up by 9.4 million units during a 4-week period. Based on these you can see that it would only be beneficial for you as a retailer, to sell or start selling vaping products in your store. But there’s more to it than just buying and selling vaping products in your store. If your products do not comply with the requirements of UK law they might be seized and result in you losing a lot of money.
With the vaping industry continuously growing, the increase in demand for vaping products and specifically vaping brands, more and more retailers have asked what they can and cannot sell in the vaping category. In this article we’ll cover the vaping laws in the UK you need to know as a retailer.
Statistics on the Vape Industry in the UK
According to a study on the use of e-cigarettes among adults in Great Britain, compiled by action on smoking and health (ASH), the number of e-cigarette users grew from 700 000 in 2012 to 3.6 million in 2021.
As a retailer, it might be beneficial to familiarize yourself with the vaping industry, especially if you are selling vaping products. Vaping is still considered similar to smoking, resulting in prohibiting any sales to persons younger than 18 years old. The vaping industry continues to grow as more people, especially smokers, use vaping as an alternative or method of quitting smoking. According to ASH, 53.8% of current vapers are ex-smokers and have been vaping for more than 3 years. 9 out of 10 ex-smokers vapes daily.
What are vaping laws in the UK?
Most smokers turn to vaping as the best alternative to finally help them kick the smoking habit. In the UK to sell any vape product, it must comply with the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR) minimum standards such as:
- The maximum nicotine strength of e-liquid cannot exceed more than 20mg/ml
- E-liquid bottles can only hold 10ml of e-liquid.
- E-liquid bottles must be childproof and tamper-evident.
- Vape tanks' capacity can’t be more than 2ml.
Age restrictions in the UK on e-cigarette sales
As with normal tobacco products, the age restriction to buy any vaping products in-store or online is 18 and over. In order to buy any, vape product, whether online or in-store, you must be able to prove that you are 18 or older by providing a valid ID. This is where challenge 25 comes into play. Challenge 25 and 21 is a retailing scheme introduced by the British Beer and Pub Association to prevent the selling of alcohol to peers under the age of 18. Challenge 25 is a retailing strategy where if you look under the age of 25 you are encouraged to carry an ID with you in order to buy cigarettes, alcohol, or vaping products.
How to sell disposables legally in the UK
The UK has one of the most regulated e-cigarettes markets globally. With the rise of vape products confiscated due to not adhering to the UK laws and regulations, UKVIA (UK Vaping Industry Association) released a retailer’s guide on compliant retailing of disposable vape products in the UK.
UKVIA, a non-profit organization, is the UK’s number one trade association for the vaping sector.
“Our vision is a world where the evidence-based, life-changing public health benefits of vaping products are fully understood so that their positive impact can be maximised.” - UKVIA
Disposable vaping products are currently the major trend in the vaping category resulting in high demand. Due to the rise in the disposable trend, more and more vape brands released their own set of disposable vape devices into the market. Thus providing the vaping industry with more choices and flavours. The problem is that not all disposable vapes released in the UK market are TPD/TRPR compliant. If you are stocking non-compliant disposable devices, it might be confiscated and you might get a big fine.
What does TPD compliant mean?
The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is a set of rules for the sale and manufacture of vaping products in the European Nations (EU). This came into effect in 2016. For a disposable vape, e-liquid, or vaping device to be released into the European market it must adhere to a set of regulations to become TPD compliant.
What does TPD stand for?
TPD stands for Tobacco Products Directive. TPD is a set of rules for the sale and manufacture of electronic cigarettes, and for a product to be released into the EU market, it must comply with the TPD.
What does TRPR stand for?
TRPR stands for Tobacco and Related Products Regulations. TRPR are the primary regulations that govern vaping products in the UK and is derived from the implementation of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) according to UKVIA.
Disposable vape regulations
Disposable vaping devices must follow TPD/TRPR regulations. Disposable devices must conform to the following in order to be TPD/TRPR compliant.
- The tank capacity of disposable vapes cannot exceed more than 2ml
- Disposable vape devices cannot exceed a nicotine level of 20mg/ml (2%)
- All disposable devices must be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and appear on the MHRA’s website as approved.
- The packaging of disposable vapes must contain the following:
- Nicotine health warning (“This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance”) on the front and back of the package
- Nicotine Content
- Nicotine Delivery per Puff
- Ingredient List
- Batch Number
- Warning to keep out of reach of children
- The name and address of the manufacturer as well as the name and address of the Importer into Great Britain or representative
- A tactical triangle for all strengths 2.5mg/ml and above
- Warning symbols and text on the nicotine strength
- The leaflet inside the packaging of electronic cigarettes must include the following:
- Instructions on how to use the product
- Reference that it is not suitable for use in minors and non-smokers
- Contraindication advice
- Health Warnings
- Possible side effect advise
- Addictiveness and toxicity advice
- An EC number for nicotine
- The quantity of the substance/mixture inside the package
- Product identifiers such as trade names or other designations of the product
What is an ECID number?
An ECID number stands for Exclusive Chip Identification. This is a number that is created by the manufacturer when they submit their application to the MHRA for approval. This number is only valid once it is approved on the MHRAs website.
What does MHRA stand for?
The MHRA stands for Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and is an executive agency that is sponsored by the Department of Health and Social care in the UK.
The MHRA guidance
Supply of new products from 1 January 2021:
In order for manufacturers to supply new e-cigarette products in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the products must be notified via the appropriate notification system. In Great Britain, you must do this via the MHRA’s submission portal. Once the MHRA received your applications, your products will be reviewed for compliance, and upon approval, the products will be published here. Products can only be supplied once the application has been approved and published on the MHRA website.
How to check if a product is approved by the MHRA?
To check if a product is approved by the MHRA, you can visit the approved products list here and type in the product name in the brand or sub-brand box. The product should come up immediately. You can use the ECID number of the product name and then check the status of that product here.
What if I’m caught selling non-compliant disposable or e-liquids?
If you are caught selling non-compliant disposables to the public, your stock can be seized and you can get a fine of up to £5000 per instance.
Frequently asked retailer questions about vaping in the UK
Do you need a license to sell vaping products UK?
You don’t need a license to sell vaping products. You need to ensure that the vaping products are TPD/TRPR compliant and it might be helpful to operate a challenge 25 policy.
How do I sell my vape products?
There are strict regulations on advertising vaping products such as running Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Instagram ads and Twitter ads. There are tons of ways that you can advertise your vaping products legally such as Search Engine Optimization, Off page SEO, the use of social media and events and exhibitions.
Can you sell vapes on Facebook
Facebook prohibits running ads that promote the sale of tobacco products. Your advertising campaign cannot include electronic cigarettes, vaporizers, or any other product that simulates smoking. You can use images such as a no-smoking sign because it promotes an anti-smoking campaign, but your images may not contain any signs of smoking devices, e-liquids, hookah pipes, or any tobacco products. These are based on ads alone. You can however do a post (not run an ad) on Facebook showing your vape products. You won’t be able to load your vaping products on your Facebook shop, as this also goes against the Facebook policy.
Can vape shops advertise?
Advertising of tobacco products in the UK has been banned since 1965. In 2016 the TPD revision came into force which ultimately restricted the marketing and promotions of e-cigarettes in the EU to a certain extent.
There are a lot of vape products and vape brands available for wholesale in the UK. It can be quite confusing as to which products you can and cannot sell. The best way to determine whether a product is TPD compliant is to check the product list on the MHRA website Selling products that are not TPD compliant might result in confiscation of the products and you paying a huge fine. To avoid this, familiarize yourself with the vaping laws in the UK.