The subject of electronic cigarettes is certainly a hot topic around the world with an array of different views, comments and regulatory issues coming to the fore. However, isn’t it ironic that at the turn-of-the-century, when the electronic cigarette industry was seen as “niche”, there was relatively little interest from governments and regulators around the world?
Fast forward to 2014 and the situation is very different with the electronic cigarette industry a multibillion-dollar business which is growing exponentially. The ongoing growth in electronic cigarette sales has had a major impact on tobacco sales and this is something of which governments are acutely aware. So, are electronic cigarettes a solution in search of a problem?
Unable to promote as medical devices
Due to strict regulations it is not possible for electronic cigarette manufacturers to sell their products as medical devices. This would incur the wrath of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and open up a whole new envelope of potential restrictions and regulations. As a consequence, electronic cigarettes are marketed around the world as stand-alone devices despite the fact there is no doubt that many former tobacco cigarette addicts see them as a useful steppingstone to smoking cessation.
There are more and more experts coming out of the woodwork suggesting that electronic cigarettes are the best solution in living memory to the problem of tobacco addiction. Indeed, there are millions of electronic cigarette smokers around the world who are happy to wax lyrical about the benefits of electronic cigarettes and the assistance they have offered when looking to reduce their tobacco cigarette intake. So, are electronic cigarettes a solution in search of a problem?
As we touched on above, there was little interest from governments and regulators around the world when this was seen as a niche market although the situation is very different today. Despite the fact that electronic cigarettes are seen as a partial solution to tobacco cigarette addiction it seems our politicians are looking for problems to the solution.
We have seen an array of issues discussed which include long-term medical health implications, sales to minors, cases of eliquid poisoning and indeed the press has recently highlighted a number of issues when charging electronic cigarettes. In many ways it is the age-old strategy of “a solution in need of a problem” with politicians unable or unwilling to see any of the positive benefits of electronic cigarettes. There is of course the issue of tax income from tobacco cigarette sales and the fact that as this continues to fall it will need to be replaced at some point. But does this justify finding problem after problem for what many see as the solution to tobacco cigarette addiction?
While there is no doubt about the need for long-term medical trials to confirm any potential health implications for those using electronic cigarettes, there is also the opportunity to save billions upon billions of dollars each year on health care costs. This is before we even begin to look at the cost to the economy of those suffering illnesses directly or indirectly associated with tobacco cigarette use. These are very much the hidden costs associated with tobacco cigarettes and while it is difficult to calculate with any confidence, it is most certainly significant.
The old adage of “a solution in search of a problem” is perfectly illustrated by the ongoing attempts of the New Jersey authorities to impose an electronic cigarette tax which they estimate will raise around $35 million per annum. It has been confirmed that all income from this electronic cigarette tax would be used to fund anti-smoking policies when many believe that electronic cigarettes are the ultimate anti-smoking policy. Yes, the state of New Jersey is looking to tax electronic cigarettes, along the same lines as tobacco cigarettes, to raise funds to roll out an array of anti-smoking policies – no, you could not make it up?
The regulatory, governmental and corporate issues surrounding electronic cigarettes seem to get more complicated each day. There is a very strange mist hovering over the industry with a definite polarisation of opinions and views. We have the electronic cigarette industry and customers on one side happy to discuss the benefits and any improvements to their health, while on the other we have governments and regulators looking for a problem, to associate with what many believe is the solution.
Mark Benson is a contributing author for Spinfuel eMagazine. His continuing columns will bring a level headed approach to the dynamics involved in realizing a positive future for the e-cigarette industry. For more information on electronic cigarettes and the various products available please visit the OKCigs website