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.
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.