NATO Show 2014: Don’t Get Smoked Out

E-cig leaders call for proactive stance on regulations

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

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This was the first year that the Big Three tobacco companies all had electronic-cigarette products on the NATO Show floor. Though NJOY has often cited its goal of making combustible cigarettes obsolete, representatives from the e-cig divisions of these major cigarette manufacturers have no problem also going after the adult cigarette smoker.

“That’s for the Marlboro folks to worry about,” joked Joe Murillo, president and general manager of Richmond, Va.-based Nu Mark LLC, a subsidiary of Altria.

With anti-e-cigarette regulations running rampant on the state and local level, it’s no surprise that local legislation was a hot topic of the electronic cigarette panel; however, it was a little surprising that competing e-cigarette companies such as Logic, Lorillard, NJOY and Reynolds are uniting to combat unfair regulations.

“There has been collaboration and conversations between us,” said Miguel Martin, president of Pompano Beach, Fla.- based Logic Technology Development LLC. “While we’ll continue to compete fiercely for your business, on these issues we are very much aligned. There will be many situations coming up where [we] will be working together with retailers.”

One thing Martin and other representatives agreed on was that overall, the industry has been too passive in allowing these regulations to be imposed before the public has been educated on the realities of electronic cigarettes.

“We’re not being as proactive as we could and should be,” said Stephanie Cordisco, president of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., Winston-Salem, N.C. “Being able to have a voice and help shape the outcome—vs. having the outcome shape us—is critical.”

Vito Maurici, senior vice president of sales and distribution for Scottsdale, Ariz.- based NJOY, said it’s especially critical for retailers to get involved on the local level, where often such regulations are voted on with less than 24 hours’ notice.

“Often with elected officials, there’s an absence of information,” he said. “Therefore, they take the path of least resistance. It’s very dangerous because ultimately, these kinds of regulations absent of science could make it easier for people to continue to smoke.”

“Whether we win or lose, it’s important for our voices to be heard,” said Murillo. “Otherwise, the only voices [regulators] will hear are those who want to outlaw this industry.”

Choose to Participate

Now that cities such as New York and Los Angeles have set the standard, many others are following suit, with elected officials not wanting to put their future on the line by opposing such local regulations.

Science, however, is often on the side of e-cig proponents, and companies such as Altria, Reynolds and NJOY all offer position papers and talking points to make the case against e-cig bans or extreme taxation.

“The other side of this has all of those things ready to go; make no mistake that is what they’re doing,” said Murillo, pointing out that Altria has an employee dedicated to helping retailers fight back. “We’re trying to give you a counter to that.”

These e-cigarette companies were also united in their support of federal regulations, believing national guidelines will ultimately help, not hurt, the industry.

“If nothing else, [deeming regulations] will allow local legislatures to know the FDA is on the job and making sure that those in the industry are conducting themselves responsibly,” Maurici said. He was referring to reasonable, science-based regulations such as age verification and best manufacturing processes, a far cry from the extreme measures e-cigarette opponents are calling for.

That is yet another reason why it’s important for retailers to get involved, especially during the public comment period on proposed deeming regulations.

“I really encourage retailers to participate,” Martin said. “It will play a role because, in many ways, your opinion will carry a lot more weight than manufacturers.”

Murillo agreed: “You’re in the unique position of being closer to consumers. We have the opportunity to shape this in the right way. Regulations could be a good thing for this industry, but it has to be science-based.

“The discussion needs to be about the product we’re regulating, not cigarettes,” he continued. “We’re not regulating cigarettes—we’re regulating vapor.”

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