At first glance, it looks just like an electronic cigarette, but Voke is actually a nicotine inhaler. British American Tobacco has managed to sidestep the ecig industry competition by pushing out this new nicotine replacement product and gaining quick licensure to sell it as a medicinal product in the UK.
This isn’t the first time that Big Tobacco has ventured into the cessation marketplace, but it’s definitely the first tobacco-sponsored nicotine inhaler that has made the cut with licensing agencies. The Voke Inhaler holds the visual appeal of an ecig, but it has no batteries or electronic components so it escapes the ecigarette label in the eyes of regulators. Instead, it delivers precise doses of nicotine in breath-activated puffs. There is no smoke or vapor, but BAT representatives say that it does offer a throat hit similar to a cigarette.
Now that Voke has gained licensing as a medicinal product, the final step is to get a modified license that will allow BAT to launch a full-scale commercialization of the product through the Nicoventures division. Chief Medical Officer Kevin Bridgman said that this could take a few months, but once the modified license is received, they will begin manufacturing and push out an immediate launch in Britain.
Voke is packaged like many ecigs in a pack that resembles a standard pack of cigarettes. Inside, the Voke inhaler looks similar to a cigarette and there is also a canister of pharmaceutical grade nicotine that provides 20 refills for the inhaler. There is no word on pricing quite yet, but Bridgman said it would be competitively priced to attract current smokers.
While many smokers might not be sure about dumping their smokes for a nicotine inhaler, investors are apparently confident that Voke will be a success. As soon as word got out that the inhaler was approved for medicinal licensure, Consort Medical that is contracted to manufacture Voke saw a 9 percent increase in market shares.
Bridgman said the ultimate goal is to appeal to smokers that want to quit, but feel uneasy about battery-powered electronic cigarettes. “The fact that it has been licensed by the medicines regulator provides the assurances around quality and safety that many smokers are seeking,” he said. “I’m fairly confident that most e-cigarettes contain fewer toxins than conventional cigarettes, but the trouble is that without standards and without someone overseeing things then consumers can’t be sure.”
This seems like a very strategic move by British American Tobacco, but the big question is whether or not it will pay off when it comes to profits. Do you think Britain’s smokers will easily accept Voke? Can a nicotine inhaler really outshine ecigs, even with medical licensure?