E-cigarettes have exploded in popularity in recent years, with many people now considering them a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. But did you know that big tobacco companies are also investing in e-cigarette technology?
Here, we’ll discuss the reasons why traditional tobacco companies are interested in electronic cigarettes, including
- how they work
- the regulatory situation
- the market size
- and how to buy quality products.
How Do E-Cigarettes Work?
Put simply, e-cigarettes are an electronic device that allow users to inhale various amounts of liquids, which sometimes contain nicotine but are more often than not flavored to taste like classic tobacco products. In this way, e-cigarettes are a lot like traditional cigarettes: they provide a feeling of “being there,” they allow you to inhale some chemicals, and they produce a similar amount of tar as traditional cigarettes. However, the main difference between these two products is how they’re used and how they’re approved by regulators.
Inhalation, or “vaporizing,” is the process by which e-cigarettes generate an aerosol mist that can be inhaled by the user. The act of inhaling the vapor is called “vaping.” When you vape, you’re typically inhaling some kind of fruit juice, vegetable glycerin (which is a byproduct of making oil), and/or liquid nicotine (which is extracted from tobacco plants). The liquids used in e-cigarettes can also contain various flavors, like cherry, lemon, or apple, to give the inhaled substance a more realistic taste.
Why Are Traditional Tobacco Companies Interested In E-Cigarettes?
The first and most obvious reason why traditional tobacco companies are interested in e-cigarettes is because they allow users to inhale their products without having to worry about the throat and airway irritation that comes with regular smoking. If you’ve ever watched an HBO documentary on the subject, you’ll know exactly what we mean. (If you haven’t, here’s a quick primer on the evils of tobacco: it’s highly addictive, it causes cancer, and it causes bad breath.)
Another great thing about e-cigarettes is that, since they’re a relatively new invention, they don’t appear in many places and things that traditional cigarettes are restricted from appearing in – like restaurants and bars. This is especially useful for the people who work in those places, as they don’t have to worry about going to work sick due to second-hand smoke.
And let’s not forget about the added revenue that comes with this type of product. Last year, e-cigarettes were the most profitable product within the American Tobacco industry, raking in billions of dollars – a profit margin of nearly 100%. (Big Tobacco has also held a steady hand in the regulatory sphere, lobbying to make it easier for manufacturers to get their products approved and warning users of the dangers of vaping.)
The Regulatory And Tax Situations For E-Cigarettes Are Still Unclear
The good news is that, since e-cigarettes are relatively new, there aren’t a lot of regulations regarding them, leaving the market a little more accessible. (And for the most part, manufacturers are only required to follow FDA guidelines when it comes to manufacturing quality products.) This is very different from the situation with traditional cigarettes, which are heavily regulated not only by the FDA but also by many state and local governments. (If you’re looking for a quick primer on the Food and Drug Administration, here’s a good place to start.)
While e-cigarettes don’t require FDA approval to be sold in the United States, they do need to be approved for marketing and marketed as tobacco-substitute products – a process that can take several months to several years, depending on how quickly the manufacturer wants to see their product hit the market. (In other words, you won’t see Quick Trip or 7-Eleven selling electronic cigarettes anytime soon.)
The Market Size For E-Cigarettes Is Still Small
While e-cigarettes have seen unprecedented popularity in recent years, they’re still a small segment of the overall market – and it’s easy to see why. First of all, it’s fairly easy to replicate the experience of smoking a cigarette without needing to purchase an entire pack. (Think about it: you can buy the individual pieces that make up a cigarette individually – like the tobacco and filter, for example.) And while we’re on the subject of affordability, the price of an e-cigarette starter kit can be anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars, which is a lot cheaper than a traditional cigarette, where the price can range from $10 to $15 per cigarette. (Even if you break down the cost of all the extra items, like the plastic bag and tip, you’re still looking at a significant savings.)
These products have also largely remained inaccessible to the average person. Since they’re still relatively new and unregulated, it’s been difficult for manufacturers to make them affordable for the average person. (Think about how many hoops you need to go through to purchase a bottle of wine versus how easy it is to purchase an e-cigarette.) This is changing, however, as more people are becoming aware of the benefits of e-cigarettes and the desire to avoid the health problems associated with traditional cigarettes is becoming more accessible.
Quality Control For E-Cigarettes Is Still An Issue
Last but not least, let’s not forget about the quality control issues that come with any new product, whether it’s a traditional or a tech product. Even in the case of e-cigarettes, which are still relatively new and haven’t been around long enough for consumers to get comfortable with swapping out parts, there’s always the possibility of having a bad batch. (Think about all the problems that came with the first generation of smartphones or tablets. And before you start blaming Apple, remember that the entire industry is still working its way out of these problems.)
While it’s not overly common, there have been cases of people being injured or sickened by substandard e-cigarette products. (In fact, the American Association of Advertising Agencies recently issued a warning about the dangers of these products, citing thousands of reported cases of malfunction and throat irritation.) Whether or not these instances are caused by substandard manufacturing practices or irresponsible behavior on the part of the consumer, it’s still a problem that needs to be resolved – and it’s one that will continue to plague the industry as long as it relies on unproven technologies and components.
How Do You Know If A Product Is Genuine?
If you’re ever wondering whether or not to purchase an electronic cigarette, look for the following four signs that the product is genuine (or at least of good quality):
- The box it comes in is of good quality.
- The outer packaging is in good condition.
- There’s no hesitation in the sound when you turn it on.
- It’s easily available (with a reputable brand).
If you can’t tell by looking at these four things, then don’t buy it. These products aren’t worth the risk of health problems. (And just to be safe, make sure you practice safe vaping by following all the necessary sanitation procedures.)
As you can see, there are many reasons why traditional tobacco companies are interested in electronic cigarettes. While it would be great to see these products replace cigarettes entirely, that might not happen any time soon. (For now, at least, we’ve got plenty of room for both.) But that doesn’t mean that they’re not a worthy consumer product. As long as they continue to be manufactured and sold responsibly, with all the necessary safety precautions, then there’s no reason why traditional tobacco companies shouldn’t continue to explore this space. (And considering the risks that come with any new product, it might be a good idea for them to get out of this business altogether – especially since they don’t offer any benefits.)