Can Children Buy Nicotine-Free Flavourings for E-Cigarette Liquids?
Let’s find out.
What are the flavourings used in e-liquids?The liquids used in e-cigarettes and similar devices usually consist of two components: the base liquid and the flavouring. The base liquid generally contains the nicotine, while the flavouring adds the specific flavour, such as tobacco or strawberry.
When buying ready-to-use liquids, the base liquid and the flavouring are already mixed. However, both components are also available separately. Many people use them to mix their own liquids, allowing them to control attributes like nicotine content, smoke development, and flavour potency.
Are children allowed to buy nicotine-free flavourings?As surprising as it may sound: Children are allowed to buy nicotine-free flavourings for e-liquids in the UK. Even though the use of e-cigarettes, as well as the purchase of the devices and ready-to-use liquids, is forbidden for children, the flavourings don’t fall under these laws (provided they don’t contain any nicotine).
A recent court ruling in Germany confirmed this situation. An online e-cigarette shop was sued because it had sold flavourings to minors. According to the plaintiff, the shop had violated sections 10(3) and (4) of the German Youth Protection Act. These sections state that e-cigarettes and their accessories may only be sold to persons of legal age and only after age verification.
At first glance, the lawsuit makes sense. After all, these flavourings are clearly sold as additives for e-liquids. That’s why the ruling of the 4th Civil Senate of the Higher Regional Court Hamm from 7th March, 2017 is surprising. It confirms an earlier ruling by the District Court Bochum, according to which nicotine-free flavourings for e-liquids can be sold without age restrictions.
What is behind the ruling?In order to understand the ruling, it is important to know a little more about the characteristics of the flavourings in e-liquids. Interestingly, these substances are almost always food grade. They are often conventional food flavourings, which are also used in food production and can be found in many homes worldwide.
The flavourings for e-liquids are therefore completely safe for human consumption and do not contain any chemical toxins. This was the basis for the court ruling. According to the ruling, the flavourings don’t fall under the Youth Protection Act because the act only includes the prohibition of e-cigarettes, e-shishas and base liquids (with or without nicotine).
The only exception to this rule is tobacco flavourings, since they are not used in food production and are clearly only suitable for use in e-liquids. Unfortunately, however, the legislation on tobacco flavourings is not known.
Does this ruling make sense?Whether this judgement makes sense or not is more a matter of opinion. No one can deny the fact that children should be allowed to buy food flavourings. Otherwise, no child would be allowed to bake cakes with vanilla flavouring.
The question becomes more difficult when the flavourings are sold specifically for use in e-liquids. Obviously, no minors should use e-cigarettes or similar devices, nor should they be allowed to mix or buy e-liquids. The real issue is therefore the marketing of a product that is generally completely safe for children.
Ultimately however, the issue is irrelevant because children cannot mix e-liquids nor use an e-cigarette with the mere flavourings alone. As long as children aren’t allowed to buy these products, there is generally no danger.
The ruling from Germany is still interesting though, because it shows what legal problems new technologies like e-cigarettes can bring. It will probably take years until every aspect of e-cigarette law is clarified.
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