Leaked correspondence between major pharmaceuticals company GlaxoSmithKline and EU regulators have revealed that the company is seeking harsh regulations against electronic cigarettes. This comes as no surprise to many electronic cigarettes community members and business leaders who have long suspected major pharmaceuticals companies would view the products as a threat to their smoking cessation profits.
As reported by British daily newspaper The Times, Glaxo is arguing that electronic cigarettes could serve as a gateway to smoking. It’s their hope that all e-cig companies be required to obtain medicines licences — which is very nearly a death sentence for most small- and medium-sized companies. All in all, it’s clear this is a measured effort designed to impede the electronic cigarette industry so that other cessation products can continue to sell.
Glaxo just happens to produce nicotine patches, gums, and lozenges for smoking cessation. Though these are all “approved” therapies for smoking cessation, many experts now say that these options are barely more successful than quitting cold turkey and don’t foster long-term quitting. Relapse into smoking eventually occurs for almost all former smokers. These revelations have been hitting smoking cessation product sales pretty hard.
Meanwhile, electronic cigarettes are rapidly proving to be more successful than approved cessation methods (which offer, at best, a 3% success rate over quitting cold turkey). Recently, e-cigs did better than patches in a small study. While quit rates between patch and e-cig users were the same, many e-cig users that didn’t manage to quit did significantly cut down on their traditional smoking (thus reducing the harm done to them by the habit).
In Europe, e-cigs have been taking off — so quickly that already they appear to be selling more than cessation products. This is exactly what pharmaceuticals companies are worried about. There’s not as much money in helping people quit as there is in helping people attempt to quit (repeatedly). E-cigs seems to defeat this notion by offering long-term replacement for smoking — and without the easily orchestrated monopoly massive pharmaceuticals companies can set up behind the wall of government regulation.
At the moment, the European Union is headed towards regulation of electronic cigarettes where companies can choose to be regulated as traditional cigarettes or medicine. Neither is ideal, and major tobacco and pharmaceuticals companies are both pushing for the harshest rules possible for the industry.
Only time will tell if they are going to get what they want.
There’s one quick note to be made on the concern that electronic cigarettes might be a gateway to tobacco. Many experts actually believe that e-cigs are more likely to act as a gateway away from smoking rather than to it. The gateway effect as it is more popularly portrayed, has been mostly debunked as a concern for risky behavior.