Let’s be honest: Big Tobacco companies have taken a lot of heat from the vaping industry. The majority of vapers are ex-smokers who aren’t fond of the companies that fostered their initial nicotine addiction. Beyond personal opinion, Big Tobacco is known to have funded several studies whose biased results has given vaping a bad rep. So it seems that it would be the pretty straightforward to assume that Big Tobacco companies are the villain of the vape industry’s fairytale.
But are they really causing as much devastation as we vapers assume? Let’s look at the hard facts.
Focus on harm reduction
Many of you may be laughing at this. Since when did tobacco companies care about harm done to the consumers of their products?
Well, tobacco companies have actually been selling cigarette alternatives since before 2009. An example of this is Blu eCigs, manufactured and sold by Fontem Ventures B.V., who is a child company of Imperial Brands plc, a major international tobacco corporation.
But isn’t that evidence of Big Tobacco trying to corner the vape market, their biggest threat and forthcoming competitor? Not necessarily.
Several tobacco corporations have openly admitted that their products have caused damage to consumers, and that they, like the vape industry, are striving towards a smoke-free future. But then why continue to sell cigarettes? Because there continues to be a demand for them. If a tobacco company suddenly decided to stop production and close their doors, their consumers would likely move over to a different tobacco company and brand. Even if all tobacco companies shut down, smokers would find a way to get tobacco, leading to an unregulated black market much like the current state of cannabis.
So although the production and sale of cigarettes is detrimental to current or future consumers, it’s really related to the amount of people who continue to smoke.
Nonetheless, tobacco companies are still doing their part to offer alternative products in hopes that smokers themselves will start to make better choices.
Shared concern about regulations
In Canada specifically, both the tobacco and vape industries are facing limitations at the hands of Bill S-5, a proposed Federal Act looking to regulate the manufacturing, sales, and advertisement of tobacco and e-cigarette products.
Although most of these restrictions are specific to either tobacco or e-cigarette products, their converging point lies in the inability to compare vape products to traditional cigarettes.
Since tobacco companies have now dipped their toes into the world of vaping, these regulations will mean that they, in addition to vape companies, will be unable to communicate any contrast between their harm reduction vape products and traditional combustible tobacco. Retailers from either side of the fence won’t be able to explain the reduced harm of vape products as compared to cigarettes and aren’t able to quote or refer to any research that corroborates this information.
Both the tobacco and vape industries have been actively working side-by-side to ensure that any regulations put into effect are reasonable and allow them the right to inform their consumers honestly.
Inaccurate information about study funding
It’s a common belief that Big Tobacco companies will throw money at scientists in order to sway study results in their favour. However, media sources reporting these studies are known culprits of distorting the truth and pointing their fingers prematurely before getting all of the facts.
An example of this was a story published by the UK news source, The Times, which reported that five anti-smoking scientist accepted “thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes.”
This information was quickly retracted, and The Times issued a public apology to the slighted scientists.
So although it’s a widely-held belief that e-cigarette research with unfavourable results is always influenced by Big Tobacco, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Vision of a smoke-free future
The last thing most people would expect Big Tobacco to hope for is a smoke-free future. After all, don’t their companies rely on the sale of cigarettes to make their living? They do, but for how much longer?
Tobacco companies have been increasingly transparent in terms of offering scientific information and displaying health warnings. And while these measures are mandated by law, these companies have also taken full responsibility for their actions in the past. Many corporations have taken big steps in atoning for their histories, such as offering less harmful alternatives and showing support for the growing vape industry.
Does this make up for all of the damage caused? Perhaps not, but at least it’s a start. And paired with their publicly-shared intentions of a smoke-free future, it seems like the tobacco industry is headed in the right direction.
So even though Big Tobacco has been made out to be the Big Bad Wolf to the underdog vape industry, their similar goals and directions now seem to coincide with vaping more than ever before.