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ECF honcho speaks out on CNN

Major news sources, some of them the most reputable worldwide, are giving a voice to advocates of harm reduction in the debate over the fate of vaping. At the same time as the New England Journal of Medicine published a guest editorial by two leading physicians, Nathan Cobb and David Abrams, advocating harm reductionist regulations, the major international news source CNN gave space in its op ed section to ECF's own Oliver Kershaw. All three, Cobb, Abrams, and Kershaw, and significant other voices too, are making the salutary point that Big Tobacco does not represent the vaping supplies industry, or the vaping community, but is in fact the enemy of the interests of vapers.

This point has been misunderstood for some time now, and the correction is overdue. The public has been confused by misinformation from the cigarette companies themselves, and from opponents of vaping. Big Tobacco entered the market 5 years after the introduction of electronic cigarettes. Before that, their first reaction to the new product had been one of white-knuckled horror, but then they got the idea to buy the market and use it for their own ends. Lorillard bought Blu and pumped enough money into advertising to purchase a dominant position in the market. Other tobacco juggernauts either followed Lorillard's lead and bought out small independents, or developed their own lines of e-cigarettes. As recently as the beginning of this year, it looked as though a cabal of Big Tobacco firms was going to dominate the market indefinitely.

This prompted prominent vape bashers in the scientific community to decide that e-cigarettes had been invented by Big Tobacco, and were simply a trick by cigarette makers to "hook kids on nicotine." The press dutifully followed their lead, and so did leading politicians. No one noticed the glaring chronological error in their line of reasoning: the 5-year gap between the introduction of the product and Big Tobacco's invasion of the already-thriving industry, and its crass outright purchase of a position of dominance.

That situation began to turn around a few months ago, when the vaping public began to turn away from first generation e-cigs, the "cigalikes" that aim to mimic the smoking experience very closely. They moved toward open tank systems, which give the user more control of nicotine concentrations, heat levels, and the like, and which Big Tobacco, for the most part, does not yet make. The e-cig offerings from Big Tobacco began to lose market share. Simultaneously, some of the independent companies, ones that had escaped being swallowed by cigarette makers (Victory, for example), began to muscle up on their own. They bought up other brands, creating conglomerates, added distribution chains, and offered their stocks on Nasdaq. As the year draws to an end, Big Tobacco's e-cigs are waning, and independents are getting beefier.

That is one reason why the comments of Kershaw, Cobb, and Abrams are particularly well-timed. The public has been primed, and can begin to grasp the diametrical opposition between the interests of independent vaping suppliers and those of Big Tobacco. Cobb's major scientific point, covered earlier in this space, reveals that burned tobacco delivers its nicotine through structures in the lungs that make it more addictive, while inhaled vapor delivers it through a more benign process. Tobacco companies have technologies that can make vaping as addictive as smoking, a development that could satisfy their need to keep people smoking. Non-tobacco vaporizer firms have the opposite interest, to help smokers cut down on nicotine and eventually quit.

Kershaw applies this distinction to the regulatory process itself, arguing for "a tailored regulatory framework", calculated to encourage innovation that will make smoked tobacco "redundant". He outlines a three pronged process: registry of ingredients, development of product standards in cooperation with both scientists and manufacturers, and epidemiological research, "to make sure that e-cigarettes are contributing positively to smoking rate decline."

This goal is of course inimical to the interests of Big Tobacco, and that is why Kershaw's editorial, along with the Cobb/Abrams piece, represents a watershed in the public understanding of the future of vaping.

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