Common to so many statements against electronic cigarettes is the claim that the tobacco industry is behind the electronic cigarette industry, one and the same with it, using it to initiate a new generation of smokers, or using it to offer smokers a new way to stay addicted but feel better about their habit. This comes up almost every week, but most recently can be found in a statement from heads of the American Lung Association.
People are primed and conditioned to hate the tobacco industry, Big Tobacco, and cigarettes. So electronic cigarette opponents aim to use an individual’s distaste for that industry and the act of smoking to create an uneasiness with regard to e-cigs. The goal is simple — prevent e-cigs from catching fire with the populous.
But electronic cigarettes are only tangentially connected to tobacco. Yes, all three major U.S.-based tobacco companies are now producing and selling their own version of electronic cigarette — but that’s three out of an estimated 250 different electronic cigarette brands out there right now. The vast majority of those brands come from companies that have nothing to do with tobacco — most are even small businesses and largely solo endeavors from people that saw opportunity in the products when they themselves learned of a new way to consume nicotine without smoking.
Electronic cigarettes can hardly be considered tobacco products. They contain only nicotine — a drug found in a number of natural plants and vegetables. That nicotine can be derived from tobacco, but it can also be derived from eggplants, potatoes, and even created in a pharmaceutical laboratory.
As electronic cigarette advertising, marketing, and branding campaigns have launched, many opponents claim that this is just a new way to advertise smoking to youth. They claim this is a product that exists just about solely to create a loophole in some 40 years of tobacco product advertising bans.
They neglect to realize a major flaw in this view. Electronic cigarettes entered the American market around 2007 and 2008 largely under the efforts of private companies and China-based mail order programs pushed online. The big three tobacco companies (Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Lorillard) only really entered the mix over the last 3 years — and after some debate and ruckus over whether the products were worthwhile. A Phillip Morris representative even presented on why the products were doomed to fail.
The point is that tobacco industry sins from 40 years ago and even those from right now shouldn’t apply to the growing electronic cigarette industry. Even if the e-cig industry ends up largely under the control of companies that are currently tobacco companies (as claimed by some analysts), that doesn’t mean both industries should be treated the same.