E-cigarette brand Totally Wicked has announced today it is to launch a legal challenge against the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive. Alongside the UK’s MHRA, the Directive has announced its plan to regulate e-cigarettes in the UK as a ‘medicine by function’ from 2016. Electronic cigarettes are currently regulated only by general product safety regulations.
After 100 scientists and experts petitioned the WHO for greater regulation of the industry, a recent report by the Journal of Addiction has argued that regulation would “damaged health on a big scale”, according to the paper’s author Peter Hajek. This news will only fuel the “ferocious” debate taking place over the future of the electronic cigarette market.
The so-called ‘Wild, Wild West’ electronic cigarette industry continues to attract both the welcome attention of large corporate investors as well as the unwelcome attention of government regulators. Introduced to the market in 2005, the electronic cigarette industry has grown rapidly, and over a fifth of adult smokers have now tried an e-cigarette at some point.
A government report published by Public Health England in May suggested that, although the risk of smoking electronic cigarettes were “many times lower” than tobacco cigarettes (even delivering far lower levels of nicotine than tobacco cigarettes), there was evidence that they contained small amounts of substances considered to be carcinogenic. A report from the University of Athens has also suggested that using electronic cigarettes could damage lungs.
Furthermore, health experts have recently expressed concerns that electronic cigarettes were becoming a gateway to tobacco cigarettes for young people, in spite of research that showed only 1.1 per cent of non-smokers had tried an electronic cigarette.
Certain leading figures within the industry are also voicing their concerns about the lack of regulation, pointing to controversial advertising campaigns that have been heavily criticised and risk jeopardising the reputation of electronic cigarettes. Recent reports of the danger of electronic cigarettes – some exploding and starting small domestic fires – have further tarnished the reputation of the technology.
In spite of this, the potentially lucrative nature of industry is attracting large institutional investors. Although electronic cigarettes were developed and initially sold independently of tobacco companies, most have recognised both the potential risks of ignoring the electronic cigarette industry and the potential benefits of investing in it. Of the four transnational tabacco companies, all four currently own at least one electronic cigarette brand. Imperial Tobacco announced today its intention to buy e-cigarette market leader Blu, investing in what it considered to be a “key growth market”.
The emergence in certain parts of the City of London across the country of “coffee shop-cum-vape store” in which young professionals congregate after work to socialise while they vape. The number of high street shops stocking electronic cigarettes has increased by 50 per cent this year to over 600, a sign of the potentially bright future in store for the still uncertain industry.