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Nicotine free e-cig appears

Seattle-based M-Cig has released a product called Vita-Cig that could prove highly disruptive to cigarette and electronic cigarette markets. Disruptive in the value-neutral sense of "game-changing". There are two reasons for this: price and contents.

Vita-Cig contains no nicotine, according to the product website and an advertisement released on YouTube. Many other e-cigarette companies offer nicotine-free options in addition to products containing nicotine, but the idea of a "cigarette" without any nicotine-bearing variety, would seem to be a redefinition of the product itself. Potentially this could allow M-Cig to bypass all kinds of regulatory restrictions and requirements.

The other potentially game-changing feature of the Vita-Cig is the low price. The product is offered at $2 per e-cig, far below competitors in the price category. The advert and website promise to deliver 500 puffs per e-cig, possibly the equivalent of more than 2 packs of combustible cigarettes. The low price may simply represent the actual production costs, minus expensive overhead and rapacious markup – after all, this is simply a dirt-cheap, stick-shaped little teakettle. If M-Cig makes this pricing stick, their entry into the market could prompt price wars and charges of price-gouging on the part of other companies.

The advertising for Vita-Cig exhibits, so far, anyway, the court-ordered schizophrenia on the issue of health benefits. In one part of the product announcement, we find this passage: "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease." A few lines up from that, we are told: "The VitaCig device is designed to deliver vitamins and phytonutrients via direct inhalation of rapidly absorbed vapor. Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that provide significant health benefits." This confused attitude may bring down the heavy hand of regulation eventually. Chances are M-Cig will have time to manage a few trips to the bank before that happens.

We are told that each Vita-Cig contains vitamins: A, B, C, E, and "ubidecarenone", a component of the electron transport chain that participates in aerobic cellular respiration, generating energy."

The Vita-Cig will be available in three pastel colors: lime green, lavender, and canary yellow, and in three mood-enhancing varieties. The "Relax" variety is touted as an "end of the day" product, with sedative, muscle-relaxing, and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. "Refresh" is a menthol-eucalyptol version with "expectorant, decongestant, antiseptic, bronchodilatory and cough suppressant properties." Got the flu? Grab your vita-cig. "Energize" is a booster that will "help you get through a slow day." All in all, reading the product info for Vita-Cig transports you to the herbal medicines aisle of your local outlet for over-the-counter nutrition supplements. Again, this could result in challenges regarding health claims. M-Cig makes an attempted end run around the issue with this disclaimer: "VitaCig, Inc. management believes that the VitaCig should not be classified as an electronic cigarette ("eCig"). With the exception of certain design elements, the VitaCig bears little technical resemblance to traditional nicotine-based eCigs."

It will be interesting to see how regulators react to this pitch. And how competitors react to the potential disruption of their markets.

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