The Electronic Revolution
Are e-cigarettes the spoils of another gold rush or a harbinger of transformation for the tobacco category?
The FDA faces a difficult task in regulating a product evolving at a rate more like cellphones than cigarettes. “Regulating e-smoking products in the context of traditional tobacco is somewhat akin to regulating airplane technology using regulations framed around automobiles,” says Ron Tully, vice president of public affairs for Louisville, Ky.-based National Tobacco Co. “What regulators seem to be attempting to do here is drive a square peg into a round hole.”
Yet FDA regulations are undoubtedly on the way, with varying degrees of acceptance and support from electronic-cigarette companies and retailers alike:
- Minimum purchase age
- Best manufacturing practices/product quality standards
- Online sales ban or limitations
- New product approvals/substantial equivalence
- Advertising bans or limitations
- Blanket application of cigarette regulations
Supported by Some, Opposed by Others:
- Flavor Ban: While companies such as NJOY and Logic offer only tobacco and menthol products, others, including blu, offer a variety of flavors. Public health advocate Michael Siegel believes e-cig flavors provide additional incentive for tobacco smokers to make the switch.
- Backbar Placement: Many retailers believe this is inevitable, but others believe it would stifle growth. Steve Monaco, director of category management for Tedeschi Food Shops, Rockland, Mass., says, “To be effective, the product needs to be displayed in direct line of sight to the consumer at the cash register.”
- U.S. Manufacturing: Nearly all e-cigarettes are made in China, which keeps costs low but creates doubts about product quality. While some manufacturers, such as CB Distributors, make regular trips to ensure manufacturing practices, others, including Reynolds and Ballantyne Brands, are considering a manufacturing move to the United States.