Saturday, November 16, 2013

The E-cigarette Industry Notches a Win

The fledgling e-cigarette industry has a lot of powerful enemies, including the tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry, government regulatory agencies, and even some anti-smoking groups.   The reason for opposition from tobacco companies is obvious; they fear a loss of sales of cigarettes.  Pharmaceutical companies see e-cigarettes as competition for their own smoking-cessation products, such as nicotine patches and gum.  The Unites States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is worried about the possible long-term health effects of what is essentially an untested product.  Finally, some anti-smoking groups oppose e-cigarettes because they worry that if e-cigarettes become the next “in thing”, they might create a whole new generation of nicotine addicts who never smoked in the first place.

With this much opposition to e-cigarettes, how is it that the European Parliament recently suddenly dropped its plans to regulate e-cigarettes as “medicinal products”, to be sold only in pharmacies?  It turns out that e-cigarette users, many of them ex-smokers, believe passionately that e-cigarettes are a good thing.  Faced with growing opposition to e-cigarettes, they mounted a vigorous grassroots lobbying campaign that ultimately caused the European Parliament to back down.  They even have their own website, called  Although the website is hyped as a grassroots effort, it’s actually backed by at least one of the major e-cigarette companies, according to a New York Times article.

It’s not often that a fledgling industry and a few product users are able to take on the Goliaths of industry and win.  But the battle over e-cigarettes is just beginning.  In the United States the FDA is still considering whether or not e-cigarettes should be regulated as nicotine-delivery devices.  Since the e-cigarette lobbying effort worked so well in Europe, perhaps we’ll see a similar "grassroots" lobbying effort (backed by e-cigarette companies) in this country.

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