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Just what does ‘Jai’ have?

Another new brand of electronic cigarette is being brought out this week in France, this time by cigarette maker Imperial Tobacco, which manufactures Players, Galoises, and other toxic cigarettes. The brand will have the name Jai, which means “I have (it)” in French. The brand reportedly will seek to fill a product niche aimed at the trendy recreational market, by contrast with Imperial's existing brand of e-cig, Puritane, which aims at the smoking cessation segment of the nicotine vapouriser market.

Imperial's e-cigs are manufactured and sold by a Dutch-registered subsidiary called Fontem, which was spun off from the tobacco conglomerate shortly after its IP trolling brought the Chinese company Dragonite into its smiling jaws. Dragonite was the re-christened Ruyan (Chinese, 'like smoking'), the original manufacturer of e-cigs, affiliated with Chinese e-cig inventor Hon Lik. When it bought Dragonite, Imperial also purchased Ruyan's patents on the basic nicotine vapouriser technology Hon Lik invented, and the UK tobacco megalith reportedly plans to enforce its intellectual property rights against “patent infringement” by other e-cigarette companies.

Reuters reports a growing division in the e-cigarette wing of the Big Tobacco industry, a rift between “lifestyle products” like Blu and the Vype brand offered by fellow UK tobacco company British American Tobacco (BAT), and medically authorised e-cigs like Imperial's Puritane and BAT's Voke, a cigarette-shaped nicotine inhaler. (The difference between a nicotine inhaler and an e-cigarette is that the former does not heat a mixture of nicotine and propylene glycol, but rather delivers unheated nicotine aerosol in the manner of an inhaler for controlling asthma symptoms.) Voke has already achieved approval as a medicine by Britain's MHRA (Medical and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency), and Puritane has applied for similar approval.

This highlights a controversy in the e-cigarette industry. The Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), passed by the EU last year, as well as the earlier MHRA decision to "medicalise" e-cigs, will require expensive approval procedures for certification as medicines, while it will clamp severe advertising restrictions on e-cigarettes outside the medical category. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to impose similar certification requirements, if it ever gets off its behind and does its job of regulating e-cigarettes. Harm reduction advocates feel that this will give an unfair advantage to wealthy manufacturers of toxic cigarettes, and will block innovation in e-cig companies that do not market poisonous products.

Be that as it may, Jai finds itself in the lifestyle category, and Fontem plans to expand the market to Italy later this year. Imperial may soon be fielding another lifestyle e-cig, if the American deal selling Blu E-cigs to Imperial is approved by the Yankee Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The 7-billion dollar sale was part of the merger package between cigarette giant R.J. Reynolds and its North Carolina neighbor (and erstwhile competitor) Lorillard, which has long been the frontrunner in the menthol cigarette sector of the tobacco market. Lorillard was the first Big Tobacco company to buy an independent e-cig firm when it bought Blu E-cigs in 2012, a move that started a trend.

Blu UK is already being aggressively marketed in Britain, so it would appear that Fontem plans to divide its lifestyle market between a continental product, Jai, in France and Italy, with its chic French name, and Blu in Albion's isles.