RJ Reynolds To The Rescue … by Steve Chase
I recently listened to RJ Reynolds Vice President Rob Dunham testify about RJR’s desire to help regulate and tax electronic cigarettes before a sub-committee of the SC House of Representatives. The initial part of his speech could have come from a CASAA spokesman…it was terrific. Unfortunately it went downhill from there. I think that the RJR scheme is all about their cash flow and wanting to overwhelm the electronic cigarette market…It could also be a very clever marketing scheme to help launch their new electronic cigarette with all of the publicity they are generating. As counterproductive as I think their plan is I don’t necessarily blame RJR for trying..it is a free country after all. The politicians however are another story. Many of them are accepting campaign money from RJR and relying on RJR’s information to create law. That they would even consider CREATING a new tax and absurd regulations on people who are desperately trying to save their own lives is reprehensible.
One of Mr. Dunham’s major talking points was to stress and reiterate the ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon that the FDA could not regulate electronic cigarettes as a medicinal product. His opinion was that it is a tobacco product. RJR is seizing on that ruling to make sure that everyone understands that by law the e-cigarette is first and foremost a ‘TOBACCO’ product. He also pointed out health benefits and gave some faint credit to small independent companies and consumers for helping the product evolve. However the inference I received was that since the electronic cigarette is a ‘tobacco’ product the time has come for RJR to step up to the plate as a good corporate citizen and use its extensive expertise in the tobacco industry to help regulate it…time to take it out of the hands of amateurs and let the professionals take over. Oh…and by coincidence they are introducing their own brand of electronic cigarette to insure that a quality product is on the market. I almost fell out of my chair… this dog and pony show is ridiculous. The electronic cigarette has been in the USA since 2006. The reason it has been so successful is because independent businesses and consumers of the product tested, tweaked and promoted it into a viable solution for the smoking problem. Until very recently the reaction of RJR has been dead silence from the company itself and constant negative sniping from their front groups. They have been sitting on the sidelines waiting to see if it is financially feasible to add to their product line and then be in position to play both sides of the fence…smoke and vapor.
I am uncomfortable saying anything negative about anyone in the electronic cigarette market because it’s possible that some lives will be saved because of their product. However, the approach RJR is taking is repugnant because they are bastardizing vaping to suit their own desires. For them independent companies and individual eliquid sales are intolerable because that would interfere with their marketing plan. I think that what they want is the perception that ecigarettes are just another way to smoke…a convenience store product…that needs to be in the hands of major corporations in the tobacco industry. They will use their well-established networks and billions of dollars to influence clueless politicians and the general public to drive that point across.
I have no doubt that millions of smokers will give their ecig a try. Some will succeed at switching to ecigarettes (when they find something better) but I think that way too many people will fail because RJR does not want consumers to know what it really took for us current Vapers to quit smoking. The RJR product is just an expensive, one-size-fits-all disposable ecigarette that is an introductory product at best. They have a ‘cigarette’ mindset and don’t want it widely known that puffs of vapor don’t equal puffs of smoke…or that satisfactory nicotine levels vary for individuals, as do a variety of flavors…or that varying voltages can make a huge difference when attempting to switch from smoking to vaping…and they absolutely don’t want it known that there are much better products on the market at a fraction of the overall price per annum than their product is. My concern is that the typical pack-a-day smoker will try the RJR disposable and discover that it will not get them through a day…and figure out that it’s costing them a lot more than a pack of cigarettes would. Now it starts to look like a scam… and that might prevent them from ever trying any other type of ecigarette again. No big deal for RJR because the failed attempt will lead the individual right back to RJR’s bread and butter…tobacco cigarettes. Hmmm… maybe they understand that if they did produce a truly innovative, cost effective (for the consumer) electronic cigarette their tobacco cigarettes would take a huge hit along with their profits.
The bottom line… I think we are in for a rough ride. There is a rat swimming around in the electronic cigarette punch bowl that has billions of dollars to throw around and disrupt all of the great work the vaping community has been doing for years. RJR is not getting into this market because they suddenly got religion about the death and misery their products have caused for decades, they are doing it to stop the bleeding and take advantage of a ready-made and growing market…as usual it is all about the money with RJR.