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Securities Forum Follows Up on ECF Summit

Two European consultants on e-cigarettes, Britain's Clive Bates and Geneva's Prof.  J. F. Etter, showed up at Thursday's Wells Fargo forum at the New York Palace Hotel, just days after their talks at the E-Cigarette Summit, sponsored by the E-Cigarette Forum in London the previous week.

They spoke about public perceptions and research, along with David B. Abrams, Executive Director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy, reported The Convenience Store News. Barnes and Etter both went on record in favor of minimal regulation in their talks at the ECF Summit last week. The Schroeder Institute is sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation, and recently received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research ways to improve quit-lines.

The Forum was sponsored by securities firm Wells Fargo as a way of familiarizing potential investors with the electronic cigarette product, and putting them in contact with industry leaders with an eye toward investment. It was moderated by Wells Fargo's Bonnie Herzog, who has been outspoken in her positive predictions about the investment potential of the e-cig. The atmosphere was informal and friendly, in a "fireside chat" format, according to The Convenience Store News. Herzog repeated her prediction that e-cigs could surpass conventional cigarettes within a decade.

Of course, regulation was on everyone's minds, with general agreement that it is necessary, but that it should be such as to encourage rather than discourage innovation and visibility. Since the product's introduction in2006, there has been little or no regulation, which has allowed a number of small companies to develop, with a great deal of online marketing. The unregulated atmosphere has also resulted in a lot of confusion, inaccurate suppositions, and attacks from smoking-ban activists. The Food and Drug Administration has been viewing e-cigs as a tobacco product (although they contain no tobacco), since they were barred by the courts in 2010 from deeming them therapeutic. (The agency has submitted new regulations to the Office of Management and Budget for review, and the proposed rules should be opened up for public discussion soon.) Some European countries treat them as medicines, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK has declared its intent to do the same in a few years. The European Parliament has recently voted to reject a medical classification, meaning that they would be regulated as a consumer product like soap or floor wax. However, this decision faces potential opposition from other administrative bodies in the EU.

Another panel at the Wells Fargo event featured honchos from Lorillard (Neil Wilcox) and NJOY (David Graham), along with independent health policy consultant Scott Ballin (former chair of the Coalition on Smoking and Health). Lorillard was the only producer of conventional, toxic cigarettes represented, as they bought independent e-cig manufacturer Blu a year and a half ago and have made it into the industry leader. NJOY is another industry leader, one that does not manufacture toxic cigarettes, only electronic ones.

All the panelists agreed that regulatory standards should require quality control and clear definitions, promote research, prevent misinformation, and encourage flexibility. All opposed the prospect of using cigarette standards for e-cigarettes, given the differences in purpose and danger. "There needs to be a gap between tobacco regulations and e-cigarette regulations," said Graham.