The dust has settled (slightly) on this now, and it's possible to at least begin to build something of a picture of what's going on. It's not a
pretty picture at all; I'm not given to wearing a tinfoil hat and shouting "conspiracy" from my lead lined basement, but everywhere you look it's
a tale of deliberate misinformation, bad science and big money lining up against the e-cog industry and the users of its products.
So, first of all if the MHRA gets its own way over the issue of regulation, what does this mean for e-cig manufacturers and users?
Well, it's all in the licensing aspect as far as manufacturers are concerned. Each and every product they sell will have to undergo a licensing
process. The cost estimates vary but it's not cheap. Unfortunately I have no solid verifiable information on these costs but it's reckoned to be
from £60,000 and upwards just to begin the application process. For each and every product. Immediately, all of the small players, of which there are
many, vanish without a trace. Jobs are lost, tax revenues are lost, consumer choice is diminished, but big tobacco and big pharma face fewer of those
pesky competitors so that can't be a bad thing can it?
For the consumer this is going to mean a much narrower choice of products. This choice will most likely take the form of a cig-a-like device in maybe
two flavours; regular and menthol. The flavours, of course, are themselves under attack from elements within the anti e-cig lobby who want to see all
additives removed from them. Flavouring is an additive.
If the MHRA gets its way, the law of unintended consequences is going to come into play. Once regulated, e-digs will become "Licensed Nicotine
Containing Products". Who can legally buy these in the UK? Anybody over the age of 12. Wait what? Wasn't one of the issues here to prevent children
from using these as a gateway drug? Last time I looked, anybody aged 12 was classed as a child in this country. So… we want to protect children from
e-cigs, and the way we're going to do this is by throwing away an industry wide voluntary code of practise whereby sales are strictly refused to
anybody under 18. That doesn't make an ounce of sense; unless new legislation is brought in to create two tiers of LNCPs. One tier will, of course,
comprise all of the currently available NRTs such as gum, sprays, lozenges and varenicline containing drugs. The other tier will be e-cigs. That's
the only way it makes sense, to spend huge amounts of time and money on new legislation. Draw your own conclusions.
Jeremy Mean, the person at the MHRA who has been responsible for guiding this proposal towards regulation, has stated that none of the e-cig products
currently available would pass the regulation process. This implies that every currently available product has been tested. Either Mr. Mean is
incredibly ignorant with respect to the vast range of products currently available, or he is deliberately misleading people with this statement.
Testing has NOT been carried out on every product that is currently available. In any case, how do you test against a regulatory framework that as yet
doesn't even exist? Again, nonsense, confusion, obfuscation and deliberate misinformation.
So… what would get through regulation unscathed? Who can afford these licenses for their products? Follow the money. Which companies have very
recently jumped onto the e-cig bandwagon?
- Altria; the owner of Marlboro cigarettes maker Philip Morris
- Reynolds American; the makers of Camel cigarettes
- Imperial Tobacco (the same Imperial Tobacco who believed that e-cigs should be immediately regulated and removed from the market within 21 days)
- Lorillard; the makers of Newport cigarettes
- British American Tobacco
Again, draw your own conclusions. Interestingly this brings up another argument frequently trotted out against e-cigs - they look too much like a real
cigarette and encourage smoking of traditional cigarettes. That's actually bad logic but it's a frequently used argument. So surely, these
responsible companies won't be making cig-a-likes, will they? Well, actually yes they will be.
Here's the Blu from Lorillard
…and this is the Vuse from RJ Reynolds
Just as a comparison, this is the mini-eGo I use to stealth vape in public places
You can see what big tobacco have done there. They took a cigarette and… changed the colours! Ingenious. We've not seen that before in a
cig-a-like. Well ok, we have. But these are big tobacco cig-a-likes and these companies don't encourage the use of traditional cigarettes. At all.
Ever. So that's perfectly ok.
Well that's pretty much my piece for now, and this fight looks set to begin.