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A Black Market Future for Vaping?



Globalisation is a funny thing, particularly when it’s teamed with the internet. Some see it as the dawn of an economy truly without borders, benefitting us all with more choice and better opportunities. Others see it as a movement to further line the pockets of the rich, leaving everybody else suffering from an endless race to the bottom.


Whatever your view, you can’t deny that trade between nations is becoming ever easier. With the click of a button, most people can now buy goods and services from someone at the other side of the world.


Whilst the vast majority of the world's trade is perfectly innocent, the internet has allowed the buying and selling of illegal items far easier too. For example, it’s widely accepted that banned drugs can be bought and sold on the internet, as can (if you believe the rumours) guns, poison and the services of a hitman.


Where the line becomes blurry is when something that is perfectly legal in one country can be bought by someone in a country where it is not. The seller can just put it in a brown, innocuous looking box and off it goes with customs none the wiser. No dark web browser or bitcoins required.


This brings us on to electronic cigarettes. The laws differ widely from country to country, ranging from no restrictions at all to outright bans. In China for example (the country that makes the vast majority of e-cigarettes), there are pretty much no laws governing the sale or manufacture of vapour products. Whereas the European Union is going to be under partial restriction and the FDA in America is about to implement, for all intents and purposes, a near complete prohibition.


So what will stop an American vaper buying an illegal mod from a Chinese website? Or someone from the UK buying a banned 5ml tank from Canada? After all, millions of packages travel around the world every day and customs only have the capacity to check a small percentage of them.


The answer then is that there is not a lot to stop vapers buying banned products from overseas. Businesses are always willing to sell and stopping the import of illegal goods is almost impossible (just ask one of the thousands of people in the UK who regularly smoke cannabis).


But is that what we really want? If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re a vaper who has benefited from a life without tobacco. You may be thinking to yourself “Hey, I know where to go online to get mods, tanks and nicotine. I’ll be fine”. Whilst this may be true, we have to think about the millions of smokers who are still heading towards preventable illness and early death. For them, it needs to be easily accessible.


With the TPD and particularly the FDA deeming regulations on the horizon, it seems that the black market will play a significant role in the future of vaping. Unfortunately, this will inevitably leave the public, media, politicians and (most importantly) smokers further questioning the legitimacy of a product that has the potential to be a silver bullet in the fight against tobacco harm. What a shame.


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