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In a move that will surprise absolutely no one in the vape industry, Big Tobacco is beginning to make leaps and bounds in taking over the market that could see it become extinct.
Over the last ten years, Big Tobacco has slowly been losing its grip on traditional smokers. This is thanks to vaping, which in its current iteration is given rise to a small business boom in America, but has also led to a decrease in cigarette sales worldwide.
The tobacco industry has noticed, and it’s not going to take this lying down.
The Huffington Post is reporting that Big Tobacco is making moves to insert itself in the vaping industry by sponsoring studies and building vape branches within already-existing tobacco companies.
“It’s the most disruptive change in the tobacco market,” Jeff Drope, who is the Vice President of Economic and Health Policy Research for the American Cancer Society (ACS), said during an interview. “There is no parallel.”
Tobacco companies have realized how important vaping is going to become and so have begun buying into the industry. One of the most popular vape brands, VUSE, is actually owned by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, which is a brand under the Reynolds America umbrella corporation. Similarly, British American Tobacco launched Vype almost five years ago, Altria owns MarkTen, and Imperial Tobacco is the new home for Blu vape products.
With the vape market expected to grow by 24 percent through 2018, as reported by Forbes, it’s no wonder that Big Tobacco is buying their way into the industry; it’s a way to make up for lost revenue by former smokers who are using vape products to quit the habit.
While the move from Big Tobacco is taken with caution by most vape activists, some good is coming out of the industry’s interest in vaping. The industry is so confident in the emerging technology that it is now funding studies that take a comparative look at vape products versus traditional tobacco products.
A recent study that was published in the Applied In Vitro Toxicology journal, was funded by British American Tobacco and looked at the inflammation effects on the lungs from the use of both traditional cigarettes and vape products. It used 3-D modeling to measure the effects and found that there was indeed a substantial drop in lung inflammation with vape products over traditional cigarettes.
The findings were stated in a press release that concluded that: “Researchers reported changes in the expression levels of 123 genes when reconstituted lung tissue was exposed to cigarette smoke, compared to only two genes that could be confirmed following exposure to e-cigarette aerosols.”
The findings further confirmed initial research efforts into vaping and its effect.
R.J. Reynolds and British American Tobacco are both companies that were involved with the study but declined to be interviewed for the Huffington Post piece. However, R.J. Reynolds did release a statement on vape products, which states:
“We believe that vapor products and other noncombustible tobacco products may present less risk to adult tobacco consumers than smoking cigarettes. Although these products have not been used by consumers for a sufficient period of time to develop definitive scientific conclusions about their level of risk reduction, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that these products may present less risk than smoking. While some studies report that there may be health risks associated with these products, those risks appear to be lower than the risks of smoking cigarettes.”
However, there is a downside to Big Tobacco taking over the vape industry, and it’s something that needs to be addressed: with the current FDA regulations that are in place, the vape industry will shrink, giving Big Tobacco an advantage when it comes to the vape products it finds useful to sell on the open market.
Because the PMTAs are currently estimated to cost around a million dollars per product for each application, Big Tobacco might be the only companies that can afford the regulation costs and legal fees that come with bringing new products to the market.
What does this mean for vapers? It could mean lower-end products, such as disposable-only vape products or a lower variety of vape liquids. Compared to the vast diversity in not only liquids but in mods, Big Tobacco taking over the vape industry could resemble something close to the cigarette industry, where there are only a few flavors available to force everyone who uses vape products to only use products from two or three companies.
Additionally, Big Tobacco’s foray into the market could prove disastrous for the small businesses that make their living in the industry. Vape businesses cannot afford the large PMTA application fees and are facing some headwind from states that are instituting large wholesale and inventory taxes; dozens of vape businesses all over the country have already closed, citing these factors as reasons for departing from the markets.
Another reason vape activists have to be wary of Big Tobacco’s involvement in the vaping industry is one that is a little more sinister: the industry can use lobbyists to curtail the reach of vape products and research that touts its advantages over tobacco products, ensuring that smokers always have access to traditional cigarettes.
The industry has also been a major player in the misinformation campaign that has been waged against vaping, with several studies finding vaping to be as dangerous as smoking, even though various studies, including one conducted by Public Health England, has shown that the opposite is true. In fact, Big Tobacco is notorious for using its lobbyists to battle legislation at both the state and federal levels that may hamper its profit margins and has even contributed to major candidates, such as Senator Tim Kaine, D-VA, who was the vice presidential candidate for the Democratic party in the 2016 election.
Whatever motivations Big Tobacco has for entering the vape industry, vapers must be cautiously optimistic, for their involvement signals a normalization to a very important market for traditional smokers. This publication will continue to hold the behemoth that is Big Tobacco to account for its actions and will endeavor to keep its readers up-to-date on any developments that come forward.