Big Tobacco Knows Exactly What It’s Doing to Vaping
Big Tobacco has being a big voice in the discussion of electronic cigarettes and vapor devices. Every word that comes from tobacco companies on the topic, written or spoken, seems well measured to help them. And what’s the best way to help them? To hurt vaping.
A recent article — quite an impressive one in fact — from Reuters contemplates why Big Tobacco seems so eager to claim that electronic cigarettes are extremely dangerous. Despite countless experts and studies showing the products to be around 99% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, Big Tobacco constantly implies that the products may be completely terrible — maybe even as bad as cigarettes.
It even borders on ridiculous at points. For instance, Altria’s Markten has a longer warning than its own Marlboro cigarettes, even describing its ingredients as poisonous.
They do this for two audiences. The first is the public. Every citizen that thinks e-cigs are as bad as (or maybe even worse than) tobacco cigarettes is a voice that promotes smoking instead of vaping. Actual smokers are less likely to transition to the less harmful option, and the general public is more likely to push for harsh regulations against vaping with their local leaders. “Oh boy! If tobacco companies say they’re bad, they must be horrible!” I’ve heard some version of this statement more than once.
They also do this for the actual regulators. By making it appear as if the same regulations should be applied to e-cigs as are applied to tobacco, Big Tobacco makes it more likely that lazy regulators will say, “What the hell! Let’s just make all vaping count as smoking.” If vaping is treated like smoking — even in the simplest of ways, it makes it much more difficult for new companies to compete with larger more established ones. This is a problem that exists in a variety of industries. For instance, there is so much regulation on pharmaceuticals, that new pharmaceuticals companies are almost impossible to start — even with millions. Those few that do make it any stretch of distance are often bought out by larger companies because they simply can’t keep up with compliance, research, and regulatory costs.
The tobacco industry has been like that for decades. No one new could come along because tobacco business carried such a high barrier for entry — until now. Vaping exists very much as a loophole. If offers nicotine without the smoke, most of the harm, and even without the tobacco. In essence, it makes tobacco cigarettes obsolete.
And that’s exactly why the tobacco industry is advocating for treating the products like tobacco. It slows or even prevents obsoletion of their primary source of income while preventing new companies from joining the mix.
It seems very unlikely that this position is accidental.