Two recent stories clearly indicate Big Tobacco’s true motives in regards to the vaping industry
Many of us in the vaping community feel our long fight for vaping rights is finally starting to bear fruit, but moves by Big Tobacco could threaten the progress. As soon as e-cigarettes entered the public eye as a popular device, legislators and parents were quick to condemn them as merely an alternative form of tobacco. Over the years, researchers have worked to uncover the true nature of vaping as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. However, despite the growing evidence that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, many lawmakers around the world still side with the anti-vapers.
Making matters much worse is the recent moves by Big Tobacco companies like Philip Morris International and Altria into the booming vaping industry. They clearly see the writing on the wall for tobacco, and as such are making a desperate push into vaping. As the vaping sector continues to grow, the decline in smoking rates around the world has only accelerated. As a result, Big Tobacco companies are ramping up their efforts to steal market share.
Philip Morris’ Continued Push
Philip Morris International was one of the first Big Tobacco companies to entertain the idea that vaping is the future. For the last couple of years, they’ve been posturing toward an eventual turn away from combustible cigarettes and toward vaping and heat-not-burn devices. This has taken the form of full-page ads, as well as updated marketing on their official website. But recently their CEO, Andre Calantzopoulos, went on Bloomberg News Japan to discuss the recent launch of their iQOS, heat-not-burn device in Japan. Already available in many countries around Asia, Philip Morris has been very clear that their eventual goal is selling them worldwide.
In fact, Calantzopoulos even used the early results in Japan as proof that expansion is viable elsewhere. Japan has been one of the hardest nuts to crack for the anti-tobacco movement, as their largest tobacco company had been state-run until relatively recently. He pointed to the almost 20% smoking rate drop in Japan over three years as directly tied to the growth of vaping. Even going as far as to claim that without vaping, the same amount of decline would have taken about 20 years. This level of praise should always raise suspicions coming from a Big Tobacco executive.
Altria’s Potential Deal
While PMI has been working their way into the vaping industry for the last few years, Altria, owner of Marlboro brand, appears to be taking the fast track. According to reports, the Big Tobacco company is currently in talks to purchase a significant, but still minority, stake in Juul Labs, the hands-down market leader for vaping in America. This news has met with criticism from both anti-vapers and pro-vapers. Anti-vapers believe this is just another obvious sign the vaping and smoking industries are basically the same and ought to be treated as such, while pro-vapers are worried about the hit in credibility Juul would take by bringing a massive tobacco company into their fold.
As recently as April, Juul Labs representatives had gone on the record to call themselves an independent company that is not part of Big Tobacco. This deal would all but end that sort of clear separation between the two industries. What’s worse is that Juul Labs had been going above and beyond when it came to proving their ultimate goal is helping people quit. They pledged $30 million over the next few years to fund research on the long-term effects of vaping, as well as overhauling their social media and marketing strategies without being forced. While the simple act of bringing Altria into their company doesn’t guarantee bad things for the vaping industry, it certainly seems to set the wrong precedent.
It is of the utmost importance that we don’t let Big Tobacco take over the vaping industry without a fight. As it currently stands, they’re trying to slyly work their way into what has up till this point been a mostly independent vaping industry. Big Tobacco companies across the board have proven they value profits over the safety and lives of their customers. So why should we give them the keys to the industry which finally dealt a death blow to tobacco? If we genuinely want to end the smoking and nicotine epidemic once and for all, we simply cannot trust these companies to forgo extra profit in the name of safety and transparency. If we do, it’s possible that we one day find they’ve changed so much about vaping that it’s just as dangerous and addictive as smoking ever was.
Do you think it’s a big deal for companies like Philip Morris and Altria to enter the vaping industry? Are you worried that doing so will let them eventually take over? What’s the best way to support vaping without helping Big Tobacco at the same time? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.