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Big Tobacco products losing ground

In an article wholly devoted to product development by Big Tobacco, the Financial Times gives the impression that Big Tobacco comprises the entire industry, leaving one to wonder whether their coverage is linked to behind the scenes financial interests. The news source barely nods to the existence of independent e-cig companies, ones that do not market poisonous products.

Of course a news source devoted to high finance is likely to take more of an interest in companies that command extreme wealth, in preference to moderately successful concerns. Of course Big Tobacco is one of the wealthiest industrial sectors in the world, and independents, even aggressively expanding ones like ECIG, are pipsqueaks by comparison. But these independents have garnered the loyalty of fiercely loyal vapers, and are a rising market force, one that seems to have the cigarette sellers running scared. Hence this article.

In fact, the FT article lists “rising competition from customisable vaporisers” as one of the factors causing a sales downturn for the death merchants, along with “stagnant usage rates” and research questioning e-cig safety. On the positive side, this suggests that the journalistic community is beginning to recognize a bifurcation in the vaping supplies industry, between the e-cigs offered by Big Tobacco (which are for the most part still “cigalikes”) and those offered by independents. Although the juggernauts of cigarette merchandising may capture the attention of those whose interests focus primarily on the investment side of the industry, vaping enthusiasts show a marked preference for devices “bought online or in specialised vape shops.” The FT article quotes Jan Verleur, a non-BT supplier specializing in online sales, to the effect that such sales have overtaken the brands typically sold in supermarkets.

That said, the FT article goes on to outline Big Tobacco's current efforts in product development. It is noted, for instance, that British American Tobacco is adding the nicotine inhaler Voke to its product line. Not an e-cig, because it delivers nicotine through an aerosol, rather than by heating e-liquid to create vapor, it has been approved as a pharmaceutical in the UK, and is awaiting approval as a commercial product. Of course this underlines the oft-repeated caveat from vaping advocates that new regulatory requirements favor Big Tobacco, since only very well-heeled companies can afford the certification costs now demanded. Is the MHRA in BAT's pocket? Some people think so.

FT also mentions the iQos device offered by PMI (Phillip Morris International) and its HeatSticks, as well as the 'heat-not-burn' device offered by Japan Tobacco International.

Natasha Kendall, an analyst at Nielsen, is quoted to the effect that seasoned vapers prefer products they can get at vape shops, which Nielsen does not track. So although the FT seems to be primarily interested in the offerings of Big Tobacco, the implication of the article is that BT products are not commanding the attention of the vaping public, which prefers customised vapourisers.