The Vaper Expo UK is set to kick off on 12 May 2023 at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. As Europe’s biggest and most important vaping event, Chinese brands and manufacturers are gearing up to showcase their products in this flagship three-day exhibition.

The UK has no doubt been one of the priority markets for Chinese e-cigarettes producers and brands, partly because it is currently regulated under a more relaxed legal regime in comparison with other regions. In China, for example, Chinese producers are facing ever more tightened laws and regulations for production, marketing and sales of e-cigarettes within mainland China since March last year. Released in March 2022, the final version of the Administrative Measures for E-Cigarettes has imposed a ban on the sale of flavoured e-cigarette in China. The restrictions, however, do not extend to exportation of e-cigarettes to other countries, providing a narrow window for Chinese producers to access to moderately regulated overseas markets where e-cigarettes are considered as healthier alternatives.

Indeed, the opportunities are irresistibly tempting but it would be a dangerous misconception to believe that no one is looking over the shoulders of overseas e-cigarette producers. The recent queries into Elf Bar 600s, a top-selling vape in the UK, should be a warming to other Chinese players in this field. After meeting with Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) earlier this year, non-compliant Elf Bar 600s were required to be withdrawn from the market.

UK e-cigarettes regulatory framework

Chinese e-cigarette producers are generally aware of MHRA as the top regulatory authority for e-cigarettes in the UK, as well as the producers or importers’ notification requirements under Part 6 of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 (TRPR).

However, there are more to watch out for within the overall regulatory framework, from advertisement, labelling or environmental perspectives. For instance:

  • Product requirements: the TRPR’s requirements on nicotine concentration (20mg/ml maximum) and size of presentation (10ml maximum for refill container and 2ml for e-cigarettes). This is the area where Elf Bar 600s has fallen short.
  • Advertising: prohibited advertisements or promotion for e-cigarettes and re-fill containers.
  • Labelling: essential information such as ingredients over a certain quantity must be listed on the label; and an information leaflet about safe use of the product and warning statement should be included.
  • EEE regulations: e-cigarettes producers must register as an EEE (i.e. electrical and electronic equipment) producer annually, and finance the collection and treatment of EEE.
  • Batteries regulations: producers of batteries are required to register as a portable battery producer annually, and finance collection and treatment of waste portable batteries.
  • Packaging regulations: producers of packaging should register as a packing producer, and finance collection and treatment of waste packaging.

It is an offence not to register according to the EEE, batteries and packaging regulations when required to do so, and enforcement action may follow.

Our corporate and commercial law team is comprised of mandarin-speaking lawyer qualified in mainland China and the UK, who has the insights and experience in advising current or prospect market players from China on regulatory compliance issues under UK e-cigarettes legal regime, as well as related commercial matters.

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Jing Wang is a solicitor in the corporate and commercial team, based in the Bristol office.

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Published: 12th May 2023
Area: Corporate & Commercial

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