More than half of UK’s e-cig users give up tobacco

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A survey of 12,000 adults for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found some 1.5 million vapers are now ex-smokers, compared with 1.3 million who still use tobacco.

However, ASH stated that the message that vaping was much less harmful than smoking was still yet to get through to all smokers. Some 9mn still smoke in the UK despite a big rise in e-cigarette use.

In 2012, there were 700,000 vapers in the UK; now there are 2.9mn. The main reason ex-smokers give for vaping is to help them stop smoking. Current smokers say they do it principally to reduce the amount they smoke.

Scientists say evidence suggests that the risks of exposure to toxins for e-cigarette users are likely to be low – and much lower than with tobacco.

Deborah Arnott, the campaigning health charity’s chief executive, said the figures on vapers who had quit smoking were “excellent news” but added that the rate of people switching to electronic versions had peaked. “The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end,” she said.

This is owing to more than a third of smokers having still never tried e-cigarettes, as a result of concerns about their safety and addictiveness. However, research suggests that 26% of people think e-cigarettes are more – or as equally – harmful as smoking tobacco while only 13% believe they are a lot less harmful.

“It’s very important smokers realise that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking,” Arnott continued.

People who combine electronic and standard cigarette smoking are still being exposed to the cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke, increasing their risk of lung cancers, bronchitis and other diseases, although Public Health England believes levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes are unlikely to pose any significant health risk.

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Trump To Roll Back E-cig Rules?

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As vaping has escalated in popularity over the past year, tobacco companies are focusing on new smoking products, which are potentially less harmful. With Trump now in his full role of presidency, the industry sees an opening for rolling back rules on these products.

In November, Trump’s surprise election victory, and his pledges to reduce federal regulations on business, led tobacco lobby groups to create a new plan of action. The immediate objective is to delay the implementation of new regulations on the current generation of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. These devices produce a vapour from liquid nicotine rather than burning tobacco.

Longer-term, they are setting their sights on repealing the 2016 law that treats these devices like cigarettes. Lobbyists have described a wary optimism as they approach lawmakers with their plans for products that they say can help traditional smokers quit and avoid the well-known health threats caused by tobacco.

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With US sales of conventional cigarettes decreasing, Big Tobacco has made a major gamble in the past few years, flying the flag for the e-cigarette industry. Last week, British American Tobacco Plc announced a US$49bn deal to take over competitor Reynolds American, uniting two of the largest e-cigarette players in the United States and United Kingdom and becoming a huge rival to Philip Morris International and US partner Altria Group.

“Suddenly things that were not conceivable became something we thought we could do,” said Cynthia Cabrera, former president and executive director for the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA).

While the potential health risks and benefits of e-cigarettes are still being studied and debated, with regulators in different countries interpreting the evidence in different ways, some industry voices are saying that a change in US regulations could hurt the smaller companies there and cripple development and innovation in the country’s e-cigarette industry.

Italian Market Unconvinced by E-cigarettes

British American Tobacco announced in October that it is to invest $1bn over 5 years into the e-cigarette industry in Italy. While global e-cigarette consumption has undoubtedly soared since their introduction, and the debate surrounding their safety rumbles on, much of Southern Europe already seems to be over the hype.

In Italy, the introduction of e-cigarettes has led to around 6,000 stores trading them in 2012, but a May 2014 study by statistics institute Doxa revealed that over half of these have already closed, with the number of habitual users falling from over 2mn in 2013 to 800,000 in 2014. At the same time, the number of regular smokers has stayed relatively constant since 2008, while the percentage of consumers smoking cheap hand-rolled cigarettes has tripled since 2009. In Spain too, where tobacco consumption is particularly high, e-cigarette association ANCE reported in November 2014 that many of the several thousand e-cigarette stores that had sprung up across the country since 2011 have shut up shop.

As global regulators argue over their positioning in the market, consumers may be finding it equally hard to know what to make of e-cigarettes. With no firm backing as yet from healthcare professionals, they can’t be judged a completely safe substitute to NRTs or even regular cigarettes. On the other hand, as a leisure / lifestyle product, despite their ability to deliver nicotine, e-cigarettes still do not seem to afford the user nearly as much satisfaction as regular or hand-rolled cigarettes. As one character from Italian TV series Gomorrah crudely put it when asked about e-cigarettes, “it’s like comparing crap to the sweetest donut”, a feeling echoed in a number of my conversations with smokers over the past year. Furthermore, hand-rolled tobacco products often command a lower retail price for the consumer than premium e-formats, a significant factor in Southern European economies badly hit by the recession.

So while the early findings of the Cochrane Collaboration suggest that the crossover from toxic tobacco-based cigarettes to e-cigarettes is beneficial to health, manufacturers should note that there is still considerable room for innovation with regards to creating a product which delivers similar satisfaction levels to cigarettes, without the harmful toxins found in them alongside nicotine. It will be interesting to see whether Big Tobacco is able to bridge this gap in an already disenchanted Southern Europe, and whether OTC marketers of traditional NRTs take the opportunity to invest more in promoting the health benefits of their own products, particularly while doctors and pharmacists are still very much onside. Watch this space…

For more discussion and debate on e-cigarettes, please check out our weekly news bulletin OTC.NewDirections, bringing you all the latest updates on regulation and science in the self-care industry.

OTCs in Action Episode 11: Stigma, statutes and OTCs stub out smoking

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Q: What’s the difference between the 1960s and the 2000s?

A: In the 2000s, a guy goes into a chemist shop and shouts, “Give me a box of condoms!” … and then whispers to the shop assistant, “Oh, and slip in a packet of cigarettes, too.”

Although smoking is stigmatised in many countries in the new millennium, tobacco use still kills approximately 6mn people each year, according to the World Health Organization. It is the leading global cause of preventable death and OTC smoking cessation products can help people quit. This week, OTCs in Action takes a look at recent government initiatives to extinguish smoking – and spotlights nicotine replacement therapy* sales trends in those countries.

Brazil’s National Anti-Smoking Law will take effect this month, prohibiting smoking in enclosed spaces; banning the promotion of tobacco products and requiring warnings to cover a significant part of cigarette packs. Nicholas Hall’s Global OTC Database DB6 reports mid-year sales of NRTs increased by 14% to US$20mn (MAT June 2014) in Brazil.

China is considering raising cigarette prices and taxes and the State Council has issued a draft regulation to ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising. China has more than 300mn smokers and cigarettes are very inexpensive. OTC sales of NRTs increased by 8% to US$25mn.

France unveiled plans to require plain cigarette packaging, increase prices for tobacco and ban smoking in cars containing children. Although the Government more than doubled reimbursement rates for NRTs for those aged between 20 to 25, sales of OTC NRTs declined by 6% to US$82mn, owing to increased use of generics and rising use of e-cigarettes.

India announced that health warnings covering at least 85% of cigarette packs will be mandatory by April 2015. Sales of OTC smoking control products increased by 22% to US$12mn. The diminutive sales figure reflects that fact that most tobacco consumption in India is in the form of chewing tobacco and paan.

Russia’s ban on smoking in most public paces enacted in 2013 was extended to include transportation and leisure-oriented locations last summer. An estimated 40% of Russian adults smoked in 2011 and cigarette prices are among the cheapest in the world. Sales of OTC smoking control products were up by 38% to US$20mn in the mid-year results.

In the brilliant 2005 film, Thank You for Smoking, tobacco executive BR says: “We don’t sell Tic Tacs, we sell cigarettes. And they’re cool, available and *addictive*. The job is almost done for us.”

Maybe not so cool or available anymore.

For more info, Nicholas Hall’s OTC INSIGHT publications for Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America have just published market reports on the smoking control trends in their regions. http://www.insight.nicholashall.com

*Does not include e-cigarettes

Nicholas Hall Writes from London

NHPostcard.2014Nicholas Hall’s Postcard from London: I normally don’t send postcards from London, which is a short hop from my island paradise of Guernsey. But yesterday’s battle with floods and gale force winds was as exhausting as crossing the globe, which I will start again tomorrow. Next stops: Singapore, Shanghai, Phoenix, New York, New Jersey.

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December 2013 Editor’s Comment – OTC.NewDirections

DaveNDheaderAs the festive season fast approaches, several medicine agencies are reminding marketers of deadlines for certain marketing authorisation submissions. The European Medicines Agency has an imminent deadline for Type-IA variations (a change that has only a minimal effect, or no impact at all, on the quality, safety or efficacy of the medicinal product concerned), while medicines agencies in Belgium, Denmark and Latvia have also issued reminders about upcoming deadlines. For more details, see tomorrow’s edition of OTC.NewDirections.
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