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Vaping in the US versus the UK

by Kai Bryant on January 07, 2020

Take a glance at any newsstand and you’re bound to find a headline shouting about the recent vaping controversy in America. And there’s no denying the problem – according to Public Health England, in the past few months over 1,600 cases of vaping-related lung issues in America have been reported to the Centre for Disease Control. 

It’s no surprise that these stats and headlines have caused some e-cigarette users in the UK to feel a little worried. However, while states across the US are banning vaping, the UK maintains its position in promoting e-cigarettes as a great option to help people give up tobacco cigarettes.

We’ve outlined the key differences between vaping in the US and the UK, to help you understand why vaping in America is so different from the culture and attitude towards vaping on our side of the pond. 

Regulation of products

E-cigarettes have been growing in popularity in the US since 2007, but the Federal Drug Administration – America’s official body that’s responsible for monitoring products to protect public health – didn’t obtain regulatory permission until 2016. That means products were sold unregulated for 10 years.

Public Health England states: “E-cigarettes containing nicotine are more tightly regulated in the UK than in the US,” as products are overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The outbreak of illness in the US has been tied to specific chemicals in vaping products, specifically TCH and Vitamin E, which are not allowed in the UK.

Cap on nicotine

While nicotine is not necessarily a harmful substance, it is highly addictive. In the US, there is no limit on the amount of nicotine that’s allowed in vape products, with some popular e-liquids containing up to 59mg/ml.

In contrast, the UK limit is capped at 20mg/ml. This helps to control nicotine consumption and provide vapers in the UK with a framework for lowering their dependency –according to Action on Smoking and Health, 44% of UK vapers view e-cigarettes as a tool that can help them to lower their nicotine consumption levels.

Marketing and advertising

One of the major concerns surrounding e-cigarettes in the US is the number of young people who have taken up vaping. The FDA reports that 3.62 million teenagers used e-cigarettes in 2018. Again, this is largely down to regulations. In the US, e-cigarette companies are able to target young people through advertising on TV and social media.  

The UK has far stricter regulations in place regarding where e-cigarette advertising is permitted and who ads can be targeted towards. As outlined by the Advertising Standards Agency:

  • Ads for nicotine-containing e-cigarettes not licensed as medicines are prohibited on on-demand television, in newspapers and magazines, on the internet, in emails and in text messages.
  • All ads for vaping and e-cigarettes that appear in media that is permitted should still be socially responsible, not targeted at children and should not make unauthorised health and/or safety claims.


American politicians have had heated debates about e-cigarettes regulations, many have promised to ban them altogether in light of the health issues that have arisen. In the US, vaping has become a political tool and many people are manipulating into a scaremongering tactic to sway public opinion.

In stark contrast, the UK government has stood behind the role of e-cigarettes as a positive thing, and agreed that vaping is a tool that can help the UK to achieve its goal to be smoke-free by 2030.

There are many things that differentiate the vaping culture in the UK from the US, and it’s so important to keep them in mind when reviewing conversations about e-cigarettes across the pond. The main thing to remember is that, in the UK, we have far stricter regulations, which create a safe, stable, and supportive framework for vapers.