Spinfuel eMagazine continues to seek out opinions of those individuals who possess comprehensive knowledge of the electronic cigarette industry and who can communicate that knowledge to our readers. In so doing, we will occasionally open our pages to accommodate their words. Mark Benson, Social Media Director or the UK e-cigarette brand, OKCigs, graces our page once more with this important, and timely piece. – Tom McBride – Managing Editor
While many people had expected the European Parliament to pass an array of new regulations governing the sale of electronic cigarette across Europe, this failed to materialise. As we wait for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to announce its plans for the US electronic cigarette market the traditional tobacco cigarette companies face a very difficult quandary.
Over recent months there have been rumours and counter rumours regarding the role of lobby groups fighting the cause of tobacco cigarette companies and pushing for further regulation of electronic cigarettes. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that tobacco cigarette companies have been fighting the electronic cigarette industry for some time now with a view to “levelling the playing field”. However, there are some very difficult decisions for the tobacco cigarette companies to take in the short to medium term.
Better the devil you know
While electronic cigarettes are not marketed as a product to help tobacco smokers cut down on their intake there is no doubt that many tobacco smokers have found electronic cigarettes to be a useful alternative. As a consequence we are now seeing enormous growth in the electronic cigarette market, forecast to hit around $1 billion in the US alone this year, although it is still minute compared to the worldwide tobacco market which is estimated at around $750 million.
This switch from tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes is one which has caught many tobacco cigarette companies offguard. In many ways this has encouraged the emergence of new brands of electronic cigarettes from tobacco cigarette companies. While some of these brands have been pushed heavily over the last couple of years there has been intense speculation of late that there are many more new electronic cigarette brands on the verge of being released into the market. It seems as though tobacco cigarette companies have finally given up the long-term fight against the threat from electronic cigarettes and have decided to embrace this new technology.
While many tobacco cigarette companies appear to have given up the long-term fight against the popularity of electronic cigarettes, the issue of health could perhaps be a more complicated challenge in the medium to long term. Whether or not you subscribe to the various health issues often associated with tobacco cigarette companies, how would you approach launching your own brand of electronic cigarette as “less harmful” than a standard tobacco cigarette?
Even though tobacco cigarette companies are unlikely to put this argument in such basic terms the quandary is that they promote electronic cigarettes as a “less harmful” alternative while inadvertently suggesting that tobacco cigarettes are “harmful”. There is no doubt that tobacco cigarette companies will need to approach the launch of their own branded electronic cigarettes very carefully while making the most of what could be an enormous market in the long-term. A tricky situation to be in!
In years gone by tobacco cigarette companies have managed to use their enormous financial strength to roll out advertising to every corner of the world. Whether you were watching TV, reading a newspaper, at a sporting event or one of the other everyday activities many of us carried out there was no escaping the constant and eye-catching advertising of tobacco cigarettes. Over the last two years we have seen a variety of restrictions implemented by governments around the world and indeed there is intense speculation that the electronic cigarette industry will itself succumb to tighter regulations.
The dilemma for tobacco cigarette companies looking to launch their own brand of electronic cigarettes is how they market their new product. If consumers get any inkling that electronic cigarettes are being marketed as “less harmful” than tobacco cigarettes, this prompts the question, why were you selling us potentially harmful products in the first place?
It will be interesting to see how the regulatory situation resolves itself with the FDA expected to issue its recommendations over the next few days. We could potentially see the FDA and the European Parliament at loggerheads with each other with regards to the long-term regulation of electronic cigarettes. This could possibly give smaller electronic cigarette retailers and manufacturers more time to combat the oncoming threat from tobacco cigarette companies launching their own electronic cigarette brands.
Whatever happens in the short to medium term the electronic cigarette industry will certainly capture the headlines, will attract more than its fair share of controversy and ultimately regulators around the world have a very difficult decision to make. Do they restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes, thereby possibly playing back into the hands of tobacco cigarette companies, or do they allow the phenomenal growth of late in electronic cigarettes to continue?
For more information on electronic cigarettes and the various products available please visit the OKCigs website.