The government is adopting a more positive approach towards e-cigarettes and vaping generally in a move that will bode well for the legalizing cannabis market across the EU
The Italian government has been loosening strict restrictions that had been set in place by the previous parliament as part of its efforts to reduce tobacco use. This includes the online sales of e-cigarettes and vaping products.
The country was the first in Europe to introduce bans on indoor smoking, and last year, Milan became the first Italian city to enforce a widespread outdoor ban.
Of all the pending questions about pending recreational legalization on the continent, starting with Germany, but not limited to the same, is the development of the market here, beyond flower.
Of the most immediate are the questions about vaping – particularly of the non-medical and recreational use kind.
It is not that this will not be a vital market segment – nor that the first inklings have not been seen already. This includes both the strong establishment of medical vapes – both from the German Storz and Bickel and, more recently the Israeli Kanabo. Beyond this, of course, the KanaVape case in France ended up setting European policy on the import of CBD products more generally.
However, the entire debate has been, at least so far – and beyond cannabis reform itself – inextricably linked with European governments’ efforts to eliminate smoking altogether. See Italy as a prime example of the same – even given the trend to walk this back now. This began to be obvious during the Pandemic when the government kept vape stores open in part because tobacco-selling stores were allowed to operate. Shutting down the safer alternative was widely seen as counterproductive.
The further loosening of restrictions, including sales outlets in Italy, will also undoubtedly have an impact on the burgeoning recreational cannabis markets not only here, but across the region.
Vaping vs Smoking Cannabis
This discussion is controversial, beyond cannabis. Indeed, the debate is still raging about vaping vs smoking when it comes to tobacco. While some studies have shown that vaping nicotine is about 95% safer than smoking cigarettes, including reducing the harm caused by the chemicals used to process the tobacco itself, there have also been others that have found that vaping, generally is still harmful to the lungs. This is true regardless of the substance – and of course also raises questions about Vitamin E acetate – which is present in some cannabis vaping products in the US.
The negative health effects of inhaling harmful cannabis substances (either flower or extract) has been a problem seen in flower too, particularly in regulating markets. Canada, for example, saw a widespread pesticide scandal circa 2016-2017 as the industry was not only legitimizing and merging but beginning to export to Europe.
Beyond this, the vaping cartridges themselves can be faulty.
Such battles have been seen in the United States, repeatedly, including earlier this year when the Pennsylvania Office of Medical Marijuana issued a recall notice to the state’s medical cannabis users advising them that over 500 different products were not suitable for inhalation. Both Oregon and Michigan have issued recall notices over vapes containing not only Vitamin E acetate but squalene and squalene, chemicals that are also used in cannabis vaping liquid manufacture – starting with extraction. While the Pennsylvania recall was overturned in court this June, it is clear that this debate will continue long after the cannabis industry is legalized federally. See Canada as a prime example, where just last year there was a recall of not the vape liquid but rather the batteries, which could overheat and melt the plastic vape shell case.
What Is Likely to Occur in Europe
In Europe, the discussion is likely to be an issue – albeit not as “heated.”
There are two reasons for this.
The first is that generally, the market is far more regulated just on the vape battery front. Production of vape liquid and cartridges will also fall under far more stringent rules. These range from regulating the quality of the cannabis extract – and source product for the same beyond that – placed into cartridges to what is used in the process of extracting the same. Then there is the cartridge manufacturing beyond that.
The second is that countries, starting with Italy, appear to be defining their own versions of how to implement The European Parliament’s Tobacco Products Directive, which places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco related products and came into force in 2016.
So far, of course, the devilish details are still far from even being proposed in draft. However, it is also very likely that the current CBD vape market here is likely to be a very accurate precursor of what is likely to happen, post THC recreational reform. And that market is widely expected to grow at a rate of 71% compound annual growth (or CAGR) between now and the end of the decade.
The Italian trend, in other words, is likely to be replicated across the EU, which is of course, very positive for the entire industry now on the verge of full cannabis reform. The sleeping giant is awakening.