Policy actions  1 of 2

Electronic cigarettes

NVPs (Nicotine Vapour Products) is the name given to electronic cigarettes and all related equipment, including liquids, in Scotland.

We consulted on a range of potential measures for the sale and use of electronic cigarettes in 2014 and 2015. This informed the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016. The new rules for the purchase and supply of vapour products came into force on 1 April 2017. 

There is still a lot we do not know about electronic cigarettes. They are not risk-free but based on current evidence they have a much lower risk than tobacco.

These devices have been available for just over a decade and come in a variety of forms such as cigalikes, vape pens and mod boxes.

Electronic cigarettes can deliver nicotine in a similar way to cigarettes but contain significantly fewer chemicals associated with cancer. They are almost completely used by people who already smoke tobacco and routinely these people are using NVPs to cut down or quit their smoking habit.  

For smokers

There is agreement that on the basis of current evidence that using these devices is definitely less harmful than smoking tobacco. Thus, it would be a good thing if smokers used them instead of tobacco.

However, using e-cigarettes without stopping smoking (i.e. “dual use”) does not provide health benefits. Anybody dual using should be encouraged to stop smoking tobacco as soon as possible.

For non-smokers

These products should not be used by children, young people or non-smokers.

Most electronic cigarettes contain nicotine which is a highly addictive substance. Therefore, their use is only recommended as a way to stop smoking

For health professionals

It is widely accepted that electronic-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco products. While not risk-free, current evidence suggests that the risks are reduced.

Smokers should be encouraged to quit smoking altogether or, if they choose, to use electronic-cigarettes as a stepping stone to quitting completely.

QuitYourWay is the NHS stop-smoking service. Advisors are available online and a network of cessation advisors work in Boards throughout the country. These professionals can help quitters choose the best way to quit for them. 

For retailers

To sell these products you must be on the free Register of Tobacco and Nicotine Vapour Product retailers.

Selling NVPs without being on the register is against the law and could lead to heavy fines or even imprisonment. 

Laws are also in place to control the sale of electronic cigarettes. These laws:

  • restrict the size of NVP liquid bottle which can be sold -10 ml/bottle

  • restrict the size of the NVP liquid tank on devices sold – 2 ml/tank

  • restrict the type of device and type of liquids sold – e-liquids cannot contain caffeine, taurine or vitamins for example

  • restrict the strength of nicotine sold in e-liquids to 20 mg/ml

  • packaging must be tamper-evident and child resistant

  • ban TV, radio, Internet and e-mail advertising of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine

  • ban the sale of NVPs to under 18s

  • ban the purchase of them for under 18s

  • ban the unauthorised sale of tobacco and NVPs by under 18s

  • require shops to have age verification policies for the sale of tobacco and NVPs

A guide to the regulations for retailers is available from the Tobacco Register Scotland website. Further information on complying with the law on electronic cigarettes can be provided by local authorities in Scotland.

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