Booming e-cigarette industry raises questions on safety, regulation — cbs news

(CBS News) Late last year for the first time in over four decades cigarettes made a return to television advertising, when electronic cigarette maker NJOY aired a spot approved by cable networks.

NJOY CEO Craig Weiss told CBS News’ Jeff Glor he hopes to distribute e cigarette ads across prime time programming, as part of his mission to «obsolete cigarettes.»

NJOY is the best selling brand of e cigarettes or «e cigs,» a battery powered device that mimics the sensation of smoking a real cigarette by delivering nicotine through a smoke like vapor. There is no tobacco or combustion, and when exhaled, no odor.

As NJOY’s Weiss explained it, e cigarette makers are aiming for a unique and improved sensation.

«It’s not that I want to be as good as a cigarette. I’d like to be better than a cigarette,» he said.

E cigarettes have existed for nearly a decade but the industry has rapidly expanded within the last year.

In 2011, sales of e cigs came close to $300 million. In 2012, sales had more than doubled, to $600 million, according to a June, 2013 report from Wells Fargo SecuritiesAnalysts say this year, sales will likely triple to over $1 billion.

300 million in 2011, 600 million in 2012

And while traditional cigarette manufacturers will rake in approximately $80 billion this year, NJOY’s Weiss says, he’s confident «the good guys,» in his mind, e cigarette makers will ultimately come out on top.

«We feel it’s a bit of a David versus Goliath battle. We’re taking on big tobacco,» Weiss told Glor. «They’re a good public enemy to have.»

Still, some in the medical community including Dr. Neil Schachter, a leading lung specialist at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital remain unconvinced that e cigarette manufacturers are the so called good guys.

«Patients have come in and say, ‘Gee I’ve tried this new form of cigarette. Great. I’m smoking this non toxic form of cigarette.’ I say to them, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know if this is non toxic,'» Schachter told Glor.

The Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate e cigarettes, therefore manufactures are not mandated to disclose the ingredients.

Most major brands boast a similar list of ingredients Nictone, water, artificial flavoring, glycerol, and propylene glycol, the ingredient that creates the exhaled imitation smoke.

The FDA has consistently promised to propose regulatory guidelines for e cigarettes and while the organiation declined to speak to CBS News on camera, they issues this statement «Further research is needed to assess the potential public health benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes and other novel tobacco products.»

The research could take years according to Erika Sward, of the American Lung Association

«We are very concerned that there is literally no federal oversight of these products. We do not know what’s in them. We do not know how they are being used,» Sward explained.

«I would hope that e cigarettes would ultimately not have the same god awful impact that regular tobacco products have had, but the jury is still out,» she added.

For his part, Weiss welcomes FDA regulation, explaining that it would enhance his company’s vision of a future where smoking lacks the health consequences it is known for today.

«I’ve got a three year old and a six year old. And, I want to grow up in a world where they can ask me one day, ‘So, wait a second, dad. I don’t understand. You used to little this thing on fire and then you put it in your mouth? I mean, how did that even work?'» Weiss said.

Cigarette plain packaging laws come into force in australia

Shops in Australia restock their shelves as world first laws on cigarette and tobacco plain packaging come into force on Saturday Link to video Australia’s cigarette plain packaging laws come into force

Australia’s world first laws on cigarette and tobacco plain packaging have come into force, replacing brand logos and colours with generic drab olive green coverings, gruesome pictures of diseased body parts and depictions of children and babies made ill by their parents’ smoking.

Apart from the varying health warnings and images the only difference between the packs, mandatory from Saturday, are the brand names, and these are all printed in identical small font. It is the world’s most strict regime for the packaging of tobacco.

Plain packaging for cigarettes and tobacco has come into force in Australia. Photograph AFP/Getty/Australian government

Australia’s federal government says the aim is to deter young people from smoking by stripping the habit of glamour. It is relying on studies showing that if people have not started smoking by age 26 there is a 99% chance they will never take it up.

«Even from a very early age you can see that kids understand the message that the tobacco company is trying to sell through their branding,» said the federal health minister, Tanya Plibersek, citing studies that showed, for example, children linking a crown in a logo with the idea of being a princess.

While Australia has one of the world’s lowest smoking rates and the changes will have little impact on multinationals’ profits, other countries are considering similar steps.

The tobacco industry lobbied hard against the laws. Tobacco firms said they would boost black market trade, leading to cheaper, more accessible cigarettes. «There will be serious unintended consequences from the legislation,» said Scott McIntyre of British American Tobacco Australia. «Counterfeiters from China and Indonesia will bring lots more of these products down to sell on the streets of Australia.»

Others say the laws have boosted their business. Sandra Ha of Zico Import Pty Ltd, a small family business, said demand for cigarette cases, silicon covers to mask the unpalatable packages, had shot up from almost nothing two months ago since British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco lost a challenge to the laws in Australia’s high court.
Ha said Zico had sold up to 6,000 to wholesale outlets and was awaiting new stock. «This is good business for us.»

The potential hitch, experts say, is the popularity of social media with the very demographic the plan is targeting. After a series of Australian laws banning TV advertising and sports sponsorship and requiring most sellers to hide cigarettes from view, tobacco marketing has moved online. Australia has banned web advertising by local companies and sites but cannot restrict overseas sites. «If you are a tobacco marketer and you’ve only got this small window left to promote your products, online is the compelling place for you to be in,» said Becky Freeman, a public health researcher at Sydney University.

Freeman noted an increase in «average Joe» reviews of brands on social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. «We have to ask, is that just a private citizen who really loves Marlboro cigarettes and they’ve gone to the trouble of making a video, or is there a marketing company involved?»

British American Tobacco Australia said the industry was focused on dealing with the new rules rather than marketing.

The industry has gone as far as paying for Ukraine, Honduras and the Dominican Republic to challenge the new rules the countries are claiming at the World Trade Organisation that trade is being unfairly restricted, despite none of the countries having significant trade with Australia. A WTO ruling is likely in mid 2013.

Plibersek said the government had held discussions with other countries considering similar laws on packaging.

Canada was the first country to make photograph warnings mandatory in 2001. They now extend to more than 40 countries including Brazil, Turkey and Ukraine. Tougher laws are being considered in Britain, New Zealand, South Africa and India.

Many smokers in Australia remain defiant. «The pictures don’t affect me. I just ignore them. You just grab a smoke and put it away,» said Victor El Hage as he purchased a pack with a photograph of a mouth tumour. «Honestly, there’s only one reason I’d stop, and that’s my little girl.»

James Yu, who runs the King of the Pack tobacconist in central Sydney, said the uniform packaging made it harder to stack his shelves «It used to take me an hour to unload a delivery, now it takes me four hours,» Yu said. «The government should have just banned them altogether and then we’d go OK, fine, we’re done, we’ll shut up shop,» he said, throwing his hands up in the air.


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