We all know that Big Tobacco is more than willing to play dirty if that’s what it takes to make a buck. After all, these companies have made their fortune from selling poison to millions of people. Just when we thought the tobacco giants couldn’t be any dirtier, they pulled a brand new stunt that might top all of their previous debacles. Reynolds American has submitted a 119-page document to the Food and Drug Administration, encouraging a ban on all open-system ecigs. Why? Because these tank devices could be harmful to public health.
That’s right… Reynolds American is concerned that ecigs might be unhealthy and they think it’s only fair that the FDA step in and take control of the situation. While this argument is expected from some political groups and even misinformed health advocates, it’s bizarre to see a tobacco company criticize ecigs based on health risks. After all, Reynolds American reported more than $1.2 million in profits during the last quarter, with the vast majority of income tied to cigarettes. With 5 million smoking-related deaths each year, it’s hard to imagine that these tobacco giants could be so hypocritical.
Spokesman David Howard said Reynolds is pushing for a total ban on all open-system ecigs. “We believe the FDA should not allow such products to be sold or marketed,” he said. “We believe open system vapor products create unique public health risks.”
While he purposefully ignored the health risks associated with cigarettes, he went on to criticize tank-style electronic cigarettes. “These systems are highly subject to adulteration and tampering, they are manufactured largely overseas in facilities that would, as proposed, fall outside regulatory inspection and oversight, and many nicotine liquids are sold in non-child-resistant packaging in flavors that may be appealing to youth,” Howard said.
Where is the outrage over these remarks? It seems unbelievable that Reynolds would take issue with child-resistant packaging when their own cigarettes come in easy to open cardboard packets. And as they criticize flavored e-liquids for appealing to youth, they have a history of using cartoon images like “Joe the Camel” to market their cigarettes.
So why is Big Tobacco really pushing for a ban of tank devices? Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association, said it’s all about clearing out competition to keep tobacco-branded products on top. “RJ Reynolds’ call for the FDA to ban the majority of e-cigarette products should be seen for what it really is – an admission that it simply cannot compete in the current e-cigarette market,” he said. “Recent market reports show that while sales of open-system e-cigarette products and e-liquid are booming, sales of closed-system cigarette lookalikes – the kind that Reynolds sells – have stagnated.”
The tobacco giant certainly seems focused on the ecig market, especially now that Reynolds is launching its own ecig across the United States. The brand new “Vuse” ecig has been advertised as a “game changer” for the ecig industry. Reynolds Executive Susan Cameron said Vuse would fill a gap that is largely open in the ecig market. The old cig-a-like products aren’t what vapers want anymore. Many are turning to tanks and mods, but Cameron said that is not a good solution. Instead, vapers need to buy Vuse (of course).
“The growth of those (tank devices) is driven by the consumer’s desire to get satisfaction. If you’re not getting satisfaction out of the e-cigarette format because you’re not getting the nicotine that you want, then if you go to those tanks, you can figure out how much nicotine you want, right. You fill it yourself,” Cameron explained.
Of course, Reynolds claims the advanced tank devices are not a good option because they could lead to illicit drug use. “People are putting a lot of things other than nicotine into these pipes,” she alleged. Cameron went on to say that some e-liquids even contain cannabis.
“Second of all, if you really load a lot of nicotine into a pipe, and there is nothing to stop a kid from picking it up, this is not good,” she said. “So we believe that closed systems are the way that regulators should evolve.”
It seems that Reynolds is pushing closed system ecigs because that is what they are offering in their new Vuse line. Perhaps they know that Vuse won’t be able to stand up against today’s advanced tank systems. Is this their strategy to clear the market of competition so the new tobacco-sponsored ecigs can dominate?