Boundaries are blurring in more than a few ways. Richard Carmona has just come on board at NJOY and in one of his statements said:
We still have one out of five people in America smoking … there’s a lot more work to do,” Carmona said. “To dismiss (e-cigarettes) and not even consider it … would be a disservice to the public who are looking for alternatives.
This is the same Surgeon General Carmona who supported a ban on all tobacco products and who before he heard experts present evidence at the subcommittee meeting “Can Tobacco Cure Smoking? A Review of Tobacco Harm Reduction” (2003) said :
No matter what you may hear today or read in press reports later, I cannot conclude that the use of any tobacco product is a safer alternative to smoking.
Many people are saying that adding this anti-tobacco campaigner will undermine some of campaigning against e-cigarettes by the anti-tobacco groups.
And then you have the tobacco companies buying e-cigarette companies.
Though e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco are quite similar in that both avoid combustion and thus both have similar risk levels, e-cigarettes have avoided the stigma of being associated with big bad tobacco and also from actually being tobacco products. If tobacco companies continue the current trend we might just see a Starbucks effect of a rapid proliferation and undermining of smaller players. Many small companies will be bought and other go out of business but on the other hand if the coffee example repeats there will be no lack of independent shops across the country.
One particular worry is that the companies may pursue medicalization of e-cigarettes which would be bad news for consumers (higher prices and less availability) but would effectively wipe out the competition. Only very deep pockets can withstand the rigors of market authorization.
If they do not do that (which would have them competing directly with pharmaceutical products) their involvement is still a half of dozen of one and six of the other situation. On the bright side they have the clout to lobby for open markets and against restrictions, which means that availability is more certain. Prices might even go down however there is a danger that if tobacco companies are associated with vaping that the government will be even more likely to levy taxes just as they do with cigarettes.
Though many still argue that tobacco taxes pay for the health burden imposed on society by users it has become increasingly clear that the amount needed to cover those costs was passed a long time ago. When it comes to pleasurable consumables, and when they can be confused with smoking, government is bound to go for the payday.
I am still of two minds about this but I am tending toward thinking that as much as I dislike big corporations (and how beautifully mom and pop and grassroots most of the rise of e-cigarettes has been) the entry of Big Tobacco might just be the thing to counter the seeming never ending attempts to ban e-cigarettes. And from a harm reduction perspective, if tobacco companies get involved they are more likely to shift more of their resources to this “smoking of the future” which should result in more of their customers switching.
We’ll know how this turns out soon enough.
Addendum: One last thought. If I had to make a prediction it would be that vaping will remain legal, that tobacco companies will dominate the e-cigarette market but that they will do so through disposables.