The tobacco industry gets smoked out
Will the e-cigarette kill off the business that kills millions every year?
E-lites sell a starter e-cigarette called the E30 – the equivalent of 30 cigarettes in newsagents – at a cost of €7.99, while two refills, said to be the equivalent of 80 cigarettes, costs €9.99.
“We do appreciate that it is better to quit smoking altogether but there are millions of smokers out there who are unwilling or unable to quit,” says Adrian Everitt, chief executive of E-Lites. His brand, he says, “offers a harm-reduction alternative and we know that we can give smokers a healthier, cheaper and more socially acceptable option to tobacco cigarettes”.
So it is healthier, cheaper and you are not treated like a pariah for doing it – it must have universal support then? Absolutely not.
The Irish Cancer Society stops short of recommending electronic cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco because it believes their safety and efficacy have not been established.
ICS spokeswoman Kathleen O’Meara says she understands the appeal but says it is a sector that needs to be regulated. “A case can be made for them, certainly, but there are downsides, including the renormalisation of cigarettes. We would be very suspicious when we see big tobacco companies buying up the e-cigarette companies.”
The authorities in the UK echo these concerns and are in the process of reclassifying them as a medicine. If they attract such a classification they will have to be authorised by the Irish Medicines Board before being sold in the Republic, and this will require a licence and a time delay, and the cost is likely to increase.
MEPs on the European Parliament’s environment, public health, and food safety committee are also considering proposals to amend the Tobacco Products Directive. The existing directive does not cover nicotine-containing products such as e-cigarettes, but their inclusion is now proposed in the scope of the revised directive.
Last week more than 1,000 former cigarette smokers from across the EU addressed an open letter to the committee’s chairman, Matthias Groote MEP.
“For between five and seven million people throughout the EU, e-cigarettes have and continue to provide a viable alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes,” they wrote. “They have enabled them to leave smoking behind, either on a full- or part-time basis. These people, like us, are now smoking far fewer or no cigarettes.”
It pointed to US studies that showed a decline in cigarette sales which was “directly attributed to a rise in the use of e-cigarettes. If e-cigarettes are allowed to continue to flourish, just imagine how many fewer cigarettes will be sold and lives saved as millions more people like us switch from smoking tobacco cigarettes to using e-cigarettes”.