E-cigarette marketing came under a firestorm of criticism by the World Health Organization yesterday in a report on “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” (ENDS) that calls for banning their use indoors, curtailing advertisements that could encourage children and non-smokers to use the devices, prohibiting fruit, candy and alcoholic-drink style flavors and restricting their sale in vending machines, as BBC News’ Smitha Mundasad reports.
“In a nutshell, the WHO report shows that e-cigarettes and similar devices pose threats to public health,” said Douglas Bettcher, director of the agency's department on non-communicable diseases, in a Geneva press conference, Reuters’ Stephanie Nebehay and Ben Hirschler report.
Bettcher also said that there is “insufficient evidence” to support the claim that e-cigs are effective ways for smokers to quit.
“We must emphasize that the onus of responsibility for showing safety, for answering many of these questions, must be on the companies and the industries owning them,” Bettcher added.
The report “also expressed ‘grave concern’ about the growing role of the powerful tobacco industry in the e-cigarette market, warning that the financially powerful companies could come to dominate the new business and use the current tolerance of the new products as a gateway to ensnaring a new generation of smokers at a time when the public health authorities seem to be winning the battle against tobacco,” report David Jolly and Sabrina Tavernise in the New York Times.
Some observers felt the findings, which will be debated at the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Moscow in October, are too harsh on a product that is presumed to be healthier than ingesting tobacco smoke and may help people quit.
“The lack of evidence around health risks yet, and the potential for tobacco smokers to mitigate their harm by switching to electronic cigarettes, made even U.K. anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) wary of the WHO report,” writes Emma Hall in Advertising Age.
“ASH supports regulation of electronic cigarettes including controls on marketing but any regulation must be proportionate,” Hazel Cheeseman, ASH’s director of policy and research, said in a statement. She also maintained, “ASH does not support bringing electronic cigarettes under smoke-free legislation as there is no evidence of any harm to bystanders from use of these devices.”
“The American Heart Association's first policy statement on electronic cigarettes backs them as a last resort to help smokers quit,” reports the AP. “The American Cancer Society has no formal policy but quietly took a similar stance in May.”
But both groups want regulations to keep the product out of the hands of youth, the story points out.
“The recent dramatic rise in popularity of e-cigarettes threatens to reverse hard-fought progress in the war against smoking, according to [the AHA’s] new policy statement,” writes Larry Husten on Forbes.com. Indeed, it expresses “concerns that these products may be another entry point for nicotine addiction among young people.”
Supporting that contention, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control shows the number of youths who had never smoked a cigarette but who used e-cigarettes tripled from 2011 to 2013, Husten reports.
Meanwhile, even with Altria Group (MarkTen) and Reynolds American (Vuse) rolling out their e-cig brands in convenience stores — where 70% of regular cigarettes are sold — in June, overall e-cig sales at those outlets dropped 7.5% for the four weeks ending Aug. 2, Mike Esterl reports in the Wall Street Journal.
That’s because “e-cigarette sales are increasingly shifting to thousands of recently opened ‘vape shops’ where consumers can buy refillable ‘vaporizers’ that can pack more than five times the liquid and battery power of the smaller, sealed ‘cigalike’ versions that Altria and Reynolds are just now rolling out, Esterl writes. “They also allow consumers to buy hundreds of flavored liquids in bulk and to mix and match hardware from dozens of manufacturers offering their products at lower prices.”
In short, vaporizers are both “cheaper” and “more fun” than the “razor blade model pursued by Altria, Reynolds and Lorillard.” Lorillard purchased Blu, which came on the market in 2009, in April 2012. Its sales are down 23% over last year, Esterl reports.
Lorillard, the No. 3 tobacco marketer, is in the process of being acquired by Reynolds American in a $27.4 billion deal announced last month. Lorillard’s big seller is the menthol brand Newport. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate the adverse effects of menthol, and the European Parliament recently introduced a law banning their sale starting in 2022, Rupert Hargreaves writes on Seeking Alpha.