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Portugal adds public vaping ban to new TPD law

Portugal has become the latest European Union member state to implement the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), hewing closely to its requirements but also introducing a public vaping ban with limited exceptions.

The country’s new amendment to its tobacco law, which will come into force on 1st January, defines e-cigarettes using exactly the same wording as the TPD and adheres to it in key areas such as product and packaging restrictions.

But it also imposes a vaping ban in effectively all public enclosed spaces, notably including restaurants, bars and clubs; workplaces; and public-transportation locations.

Although this measure goes beyond the TPD, which sets no requirements on public usage, its tolerance of dedicated smoking and vaping areas in some smoke-free premises does appear to represent a watering-down of the Portuguese government’s position. An earlier draft of the amended tobacco law would have eliminated these exceptions entirely.

E-cigarette use will continue to be permitted, as will tobacco smoking, in physically separated smoking/vaping areas of bars and restaurants – as well as distinct areas of other locations such as psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation centres, and nursing homes – as long as clearly identified rooms for the purpose have extraction ventilation systems meeting precise specifications.

A new report from ECigIntelligence, published this week, explores every aspect of the law in detail.

The government of prime minister Pedro Passos Coelho is also taking the now-standard step of prohibiting under-18s from using and buying e-cigarettes, again not required by the TPD but becoming a de facto pan-European policy; and the Portuguese law imposes slightly more stringent limitations on e-cig advertising and marketing than the TPD itself.

Portugal has taxed e-liquid at taxed at a rate of €0.60 ($0.70) per millilitre since the beginning of this year. The tax is unaffected by the new legislation.

What This Means: With only eight months to go before the May 2016 deadline for TPD implementation, the rush is on. Fewer than half of the 28 member states have officially begun their transposition process, so it is too early to tot up the final numbers, but preliminary indications from ECigIntelligence analysis are that it is mostly smaller countries which are opting for tobacco-style public-place restrictions, one of three important policy areas unaddressed by the TPD (the others being tax and sale to minors).

In this respect, Portugal complies with an emerging norm. Where it differed markedly even before introducing the new amendment to its tobacco law was in the imposition of an excise tax on e-cigs, thus far favoured by only a tiny minority of EU nations.

We do, however, expect many more of them to begin taxing e-cigarettes in due course, perhaps once the EU has completed its current consultation on the issue. That will not force any country to tax (or refrain from taxing), but it will set some guidelines