If you Can’t Beat ‘em, Join ‘em: Big Tobacco Tries it’s Hand at E-Cigarettes

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Big Tobacco is trying their hand at e-cigs, but research suggests they may be creating a product just as dangerous as traditional, analogue cigarettes.

The appeal of electronic cigarettes is hard to deny. They offer a cleaner, healthier and more convenient (not to mention more affordable) option for smokers who want to quit, but who don’t want to deal with withdrawal symptoms in the process. Now Big Tobacco is jumping on the bandwagon, with their team of researchers and product specialists trying new, and supposedly safer, ways to deliver their products to consumers.

Why E-cigarettes are Gaining Traction

Big Tobacco achieved 800 billion dollars in sales in 2014, according to most estimates. Why are they trying to branch into the e-cigarette market? Sales of e-cigarettes reached 5 billion dollars for the same year, a considerable sum considering e-cigs are relatively new to the scene. Their sales numbers continue to grow year by year, creating some fear in tobacco executives.

There are many reasons e-cigarettes are gaining such a wide fan base. For starters, they are safer than conventional cigarettes. Tobacco cigarettes may contain up to 4000 chemicals, but e-cigs contain a considerably lower level of toxins. In fact, most e-cig liquids only have four or five ingredients to start with, compared with hundreds in conventional cigarettes.

Smokers are increasingly turning to e-cigarettes for this reason alone, enjoying their daily “smokes” without the actual smoke.

Newer e-cigarettes are also a far cry from the options available just a few years ago. They are quickly becoming more powerful and more efficient at delivering both flavor, and nicotine. Even those who were not overly impressed with the original e-cigs are finding today’s electronic cigarettes and vaporizers to be a suitable replacement for tobacco products.

Why Big Tobacco is a Threat

As sales of e-cigs have climbed, tobacco companies have responded by acquiring smaller e-cigarette companies and beginning development on their own products. While this may seem like harmless competition between brands, there are many dangers to having Big Tobacco joining the e-cig movement.

Tobacco companies have a long history of skewing scientific data and performing their own poorly constructed studies. They also hire lobbyists and fund political campaigns to prevent anti-tobacco legislation from passing. While they may create e-cigarettes with ingredients similar to those already produced, there’s also a good chance they will add all manner of carcinogenic chemicals to the mix in order to keep users addicted.

Adding the unethical tactics Big Tobacco is known for to the e-cig arena will only skew perceptions of electronic cigarettes, and not in a good way. Consumers who think they are getting a safer product may just be purchasing something equally as dangerous as, and possibly more addictive than conventional cigarettes by the time Big Tobacco is finished with their new e-cig designs.

Big Tobacco doesn’t want consumers to stop using its products. The same will hold true for e-cigarettes. While recent studies cited by WebMD and other health officials note that e-cigarettes are a promising smoking cessation aid, it is unlikely Big Tobacco will create products for users to eventually stop using.

Some experts also warn that e-cigarettes may provide tobacco companies a way to reach younger consumers. While the health effects of tobacco products are well known, and even covered in health classes, no such data is offered on the effects of e-cigarettes. A recent report by BU.edu states that up to 10% of high school students admit to using e-cigarettes. This offers ample opportunity for tobacco companies to hook new customers.

 The Benefits of E-Cigarettes

Current e-cigarettes offer a host of benefits to smokers. Studies by the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine state that e-cigarettes may provide real benefits for public health. The current brands are doing a very good job of producing safe and effective products for smokers and former smokers, leaving little need for Big Tobacco’s input.