Although still illegal in Australia, e-cigarettes could play a significant role in helping to reduce the public health impact of tobacco use.
E-cigarettes are cigarette-shaped products containing a nicotine-based liquid that is vaporised and inhaled. They are used by cigarette smokers as a substitute for the experience of smoking tobacco. There is no combustion so the user inhales vapour not smoke and, although the nicotine is derived from tobacco, e-cigarettes contain no actual tobacco.
A typical e-cigarette consists of three main components: a battery, a heating element and a cartridge containing water, nicotine and other ingredients, including glycerol or propylene glycol, known as ‘e-liquid’. When a user inhales on the device, a sensor detects air flow and the e-liquid is heated so that it turns into vapour, which delivers nicotine to the user. What looks like exhaled smoke is largely odourless vapour.
In recent years, there has been an emergence of e-cigarette products on the market in many countries around the world, and that trend looks set to continue. We think that e-cigarettes and other innovative nicotine product categories could play an important role in helping to reduce the public health impacts of cigarette smoking and other tobacco use.
We place great strategic importance on our work in this area of tobacco harm reduction. Our intention is to be a leader in these new product categories.
In 2013, we were the first international tobacco company to launch an e-cigarette, Vype, in the UK. Since then, we have further increased our understanding of the needs of consumers in this sector.
In 2014, we used these insights to develop the range. We launched two new innovative products to better meet consumer expectations – Vype eStick and Vype ePen.
We will continue investing substantially in the research, development and commercialisation of a pipeline of products.
At British American Tobacco, we understand all the different elements of what smokers like about the experience they get from cigarettes. This means we can better meet the needs of those smokers who are seeking an alternative to cigarettes.
We’re a business that’s best placed to deliver such products – after all, we understand what consumers want, we have world-class research and development capabilities, we have robust product and quality standards, we have global reach, and we market our products responsibly.
If we are successful in developing and bringing to market a range of products that meet the needs of adult smokers seeking safer alternatives to cigarettes, this will help to meet the objectives of a number of leading public health professionals. And of course it will also make commercial business sense to us and our shareholders.
We support a regulatory approach that puts consumer safety and product quality first. Then it’s about allowing the appropriate level of innovation, distribution and marketing to encourage growth. It also goes without saying that these products should in no way appeal to children and that sales should only be directed at adults aged 18 and over.
E-cigarettes deliver nicotine without smoke toxicants. Consumer research suggests that, due to being closer to the experience of smoking tobacco, they are the first product with the potential to encourage meaningful numbers of smokers to reduce or stop smoking conventional cigarettes. They could therefore play a significant role in helping to reduce the public health impact of tobacco use.
We think that further product development can build on the success of e-cigarettes, achieving greater public health benefits and providing us with a commercial opportunity. When manufactured to robust quality and safety standards, e-cigarettes are considered to be substantially less risky than regular cigarettes. However, no product is free from risk.
Nicotine is addictive and can be dangerous if ingested in concentrations much higher than found in cigarette smoke or e-cigarette vapour. Therefore, our e-cigarettes packs, inserts and e-liquid refills have appropriate warnings, are sold in child-proof containers, and are clearly labelled as being for those aged 18 and over. Our marketing of e-cigarettes is aimed at adult smokers only.
Questions are also asked about the possible long-term effects of inhaling substances found in e-liquids, such as glycerol and propylene glycol. Although these ingredients are commonly approved for use in food and medicines, we believe that more research is needed in relation to their inhalation and so we are planning our own studies in this area.
British American Tobacco is one of the world’s most international businesses and many of its Group companies have their own websites.