Continuing our discussion with James, he covers some of the challenges and the progressive attitude England appears to be taking toward vaping thanks to TPD regulation and testing.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you believe you faced with the sudden influx of requests for TPD testing?
Information from the regulatory boards was often miscommunicated, or misunderstood, and this led to a general state of confusion amongst manufacturers and importers. It’s much clearer for us now as we’ve handled so many submissions, but there wasn’t a singular, comprehensive guide to a TPD submission start to finish, meaning there were often gaps in a submission, or important items were left out. For instance, production files are a necessary part of a TPD submission. However, there is not a clear defined format or set of requirements regarding what constitutes a satisfactory file. This can cause delays in submissions, and frustration amongst manufacturers and importers.
Is that something that’s been missed because the MHRA were passed the torch of responsibility as opposed to a body specifically formed for the task?
In some ways. However, it could be worse. I recently had a conversation with somebody in the industry in Ireland, and their view of the situation was that their government have even less resource to deal with TPD submissions, meaning some of their submissions can end up ‘lost in the ether’ for up to six months! In comparison, the MHRA are doing incredibly well.
With that in mind then – how is the UK doing compared to the rest of the world when it comes to the general attitude toward e-cigarettes and the innovation behind these devices and juices?
It might not feel it – especially to producers and consumers – but we’re probably the luckiest out there! We’ve directly transposed the TPD, with no extra restrictions and no more to ask of people other than what is set out by the TPD. This helps everybody know where they stand as opposed to, say, Finland or Estonia, where the governments have banned flavoured e-liquids completely. Many other territories have barred online sales or distance sales, stifling the market across mainland Europe. Credit to the MHRA – in my experience they are the most productive when it comes to processing submissions.
It’s difficult for the MHRA as they had the responsibility of monitoring and policing these processes thrust upon them. As such they have been bombarded with hundreds of thousands of submissions and questions – a great deal of which have probably been from me! Still, they’ve done incredibly well compared to a lot of EU member states but the sheer workload can lead to problems. Typically, the TPD states you may wait up to 6 months to sell a product once a notification has been made, but in England, that wait can be as short as a few weeks.
Some consider the TPD a negative legislative move that enforced questionable rules, such as bottle size limits and tank restrictions. Looking at the beneficial side – the aim to make a safer foundation for the sale of these products now, as opposed to reacting in the future – what are the positives you see coming from TPD enforcement?
Working under Jaydene, I look at a lot of things from a scientist’s point of view – it’s where my qualifications lie, after all – and it’s ludicrous to think that a consumer product wouldn’t be regulated in some way. While these products are not medicines, they still involve inhaling chemical substances into your lungs. Vigorous batch testing should take place to ensure there is nothing untoward. Medicinal products undergo years of testing before they’re allowed onto the market at all, let alone mass produced for consumption.
This never happened with the tobacco industry. In fact, it was years after their general sale and consumption that anyone identified any health concerns, which feels very much like a big mistake. At the point these discoveries were made, the spread was so far-reaching that it was impossible to react with say, prohibition or a strict ban.
I believe we’re ahead of the curve as this regulation hit in the formative years of the e-cigarette industry – that can only be good for the longevity. One gripe many vapers share is that e-cigarettes and vaporizers are viewed by many as ‘just as bad as cigarettes’, but through regulation and the required testing we can prove from the ground up that this is a safer alternative – we have the science backing us up. Regulation is a good thing if it leads to consumer safety!