Yes, you read that headline right. Big Tobacco coming to the rescue for vaping? It sounds incredulous, we know. When the electronic cigarette industry was first sprouting up, the response from Big Tobacco was much different. At first, it was a sort of condescending scoff at the idea that something could challenge their stranglehold on smokers. Then, not too much long after, came the attacks. Out of fear, Big Tobacco went right after ecigs and used every play in the book to try and stop the growing movement.
We all know that didn’t work out. So their next step was to hedge their bets, and that’s when Big Tobacco got in the game. Lorillard made Blu Cigs an offer they couldn’t refuse (although Blu was to change hands a number of times after that). RJ Reynolds developed and launched Vuse. Altria developed MarkTen and then later bought out Green Smoke. Even with all that movement and all the money that started pouring into ecigs, there was doubt. For us veterans of the electronic cigarette movement, we weren’t quite ready to buy in completely.
This is with good reason, because, if you think about it, Big Tobacco still didn’t really have the incentive to push vaping to the forefront. They had the money (loads of it) to simply buy their way into the game so that they wouldn’t be left behind, but that didn’t mean they really cared. It didn’t mean that, when push came to shove, they would actually stand up for vaping. Purely from a business perspective, it wouldn’t really hurt them to see the ecig movement collapse and all those vapers turn into smokers.
That’s what made it even more surprising to see the response from the biggest of Big Tobacco, Altria, at the upcoming regulations. Instead of simply laying back and watching a lot of their competition go by the wayside because of impending restrictions, they spoke up. And they did so in favor of new products in the electronic cigarette industry.
Altria Defends New ENDS
Remarkably, Altria came out in full force to defend Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, or ENDS for short. In a statement, Altria insisted that, “If adopted in its current form, the draft guidance may result in many existing ENDS being forced off the market and make it difficult for some manufacturers to develop new ENDS products.” Again, here we see Altria actually speaking up for products that could become their competition. It would be much easier for them to simply accept these new regulations seeing that they will be one of the few players who can afford to pay the FDA application fees.
They also have in their stable two brands who created products that are much more likely to pass the stringent testing. Yet here is Altria saying things like, “Should this occur, adult tobacco consumers will be deprived of important product choices.” If it has you perplexed, well that makes two of us. Altria also wrote that the planned regulations “do not include an accelerated or modified pre-market tobacco product application pathway for ENDS to provided flexibility and recognize ENDS’ position on the tobacco risk continuum.” Once again, Altria in this statement is standing up for flexibility and insisting that ENDS have an important role to play for smokers.
None of this should be taken for granted at all. It also makes us wonder why Altria has chosen this route and if others will follow suit. Perhaps this is because the electronic cigarette industry has already grown to become a major force and, at this point, will be impossible to stop? If the future of nicotine lies in ENDS, then Altria may be fighting for providing the best product possible to their customers. Where in the past they only needed to worry about regulations over traditional tobacco cigarettes and pricing, now they actually have to think about improving their product.
Whatever the reason may be, it’s not a bad thing to have Big Tobacco fighting on your side. They bring a lot of money and clout, the same things that we demonized them for in the past. But here they could work in the favor of vaping and vapers everywhere. Called it payback for decades of consumer abuse, call it what you will, but we’ll take what we can get. The only question that remains is what their long-term plan is for vapor. We’ll continue to watch this closely and bring you all the latest.