An update on CBD vaping | Fieldfisher
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An update on CBD vaping

Sarah Ellson


United Kingdom

The regulation of vaping products in the United Kingdom.

Until now there has been no UK product standard covering CBD vaping but later this year the British Standards Institution (BSI) is expected to consult on a new standard for product safety, quality and performance.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid is a chemical compound that comes from the cannabis plant. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for the 'high' from marijuana, CBD is non-intoxicating and many consumers report health and wellness benefits.

CBD has become popular in the UK health and wellness market, having grown with the rise of vaping as a popular way to consume it.

CBD and regulation

The CBD regulatory landscape is complex, involving a range of different regulatory bodies. For example, the substance is currently classified as a "novel food" and ingestible CBD products are awaiting authorisation from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). But these standards do not apply to non-edible products like vapes.

CBD itself is not considered a "controlled substance" but the potential for it to contain THC is a constant concern to the authorities.  Currently, to be exempt from the Misuse of Drugs Regulations no one component part of a product or preparation can contain more than one milligram of THC,  the CBD preparation must not be designed for the administration of THC and the THC elements must not be readily recovered.

The 1 mg THC limit may itself be subject to a reduction if legislation, proposed by the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs, brings in a dose limit of 50 micrograms (µg) in a ‘single serving’ (where a 'single serving' is the typical quantity of a CBD product consumed on one occasion).

Vape Products - a regulatory gap

Nicotine-containing vape products (and indeed herbal smoking products) are heavily regulated by the UK's 2016 Tobacco and Related Products Regulations. But nicotine-free CBD vape products (CBD VP) are not subject to these legislative requirements: CBD VP can in theory be sold to children, for instance.

The British Standards Institution (BSI) is developing a fast-track informal standard, (publicly available specification (PAS) 13956), to address CBD vape product quality, performance and safety. These are currently only covered in UK law by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR).

According to the BSI, this new PAS is intended for manufacturers of CBD vaping products and those involved in their supply chain. The new standard will be subject to a four-week public consultation, expected to start on 7 December 2022. During the consultation stage review panel members, including groups affected by implementing a PAS, will be invited to submit comments electronically with the standard expected to be approved from late March 2023.

The new specification is expected to bring together concerns about vaporiser kits and the vape "juice" addressing:

  • quality systems for CBD vape producers
  • raw materials and quality standards
  • electrical safety and basic performance
  • vape product quality and analysis
  • dosing
  • labelling and packaging
  • vigilance and event reporting

This is an attempt to improve product standards without necessarily introducing new legislation. It can be expected to seek to bring CBD vaping in alignment with the requirements of the 2016 Tobacco and Related Products Regulations that currently regulate nicotine vaping products.  This covers matters such as purity of ingredients, child-resistant and tamper-evident devices and limited tank or cartridge sizes, labelling, reporting and vigilance.

It may also be informed by the BSI's new standards covering nicotine vaping products PAS 8855 (which is currently being developed, on quality, performance and safety issues) and PAS 54115 (manufacture, importation, testing and labelling).

For those operating in this currently unregulated space, now is the time to consider responding to the consultation to input your comments on a new standard likely to fill the regulatory gap for these products.

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