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Popularity of Vapes Draws Attention of Big Tobacco


Industry Uses Old Strategies on New Products

Electronic cigarettes have boomed into a $5-billion-a-year business expected to expand by nearly 25 percent in 2018. Not surprisingly, Big Tobacco is clamoring to corner the market.

Reynolds American, of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company fame, opened a subsidiary called R.J. Reynolds Vapor, proudly purveying the VUSE vape. Phillip Morris International, now an Altria company, sells the MarkTen vape. Vapes, short for vaporizers, are the go-to nicotine-delivery device for many an adult trying to quit smoking and many a teenager trying to look cool.

“It’s the most disruptive change in the tobacco market,” Jeff Drope, of the American Cancer Society, told The Huffington Post in an article titled “Tobacco Companies Taking Over the E-Cigarette Industry.” “There is no parallel.”

The twist to vapes, as opposed to traditional cigarettes, is the fancy flavors in which they come. The devices run on a battery that heats a mixture of nicotine and liquid flavoring to produce a white, puffy cloud of vapor the user inhales. Two side notes worth mentioning are: 1) the batteries have a history of exploding when the devices are not in use, as in the breaking case of a Canadian man whose electronic cigarette sparked in his pants pocket and caught his jeans on fire, leaving him severely burned and unable to work; and 2) the flavors are given boppy names such as Berry Bash, Mango Tango and Strawberrylicious, obviously targeting the younger set who, until August of 2016, could buy vapes.

Woman smoking electronic cigarette outdoor

“This is part of an ongoing strategy in the Big Tobacco playbook,” Erika Sward, of the American Lung Association, said in the article.

And the strategy is working, despite the injury hazard and shameless marketing. The movement has anti-smoking advocates concerned.

“VUSE is the only Electronic Cigarette that finally delivers a satisfying and great tasting vapor experience combined with consistent and reliable performance,” R.J. Reynolds Vapor says on its Web site.

MarkTen touts its product as having a “unique FourDraw technology, which was designed to give adult vapers a more consistent draw and vaping experience.”

Big Tobacco has started putting its money where its mouth is by funding research that identifies the health benefits of electronic cigarettes compared to traditional cigarettes, which everyone knows can cause cancer. One such study, “Differential Gene Expression Using RNA Sequencing Profiling in a Reconstituted Airway Epithelium Exposed to Conventional Cigarette Smoke or Electronic Cigarette Aerosols,” might as well be written in Greek.

Other independent research shows vapes have toxic qualities that can introduce carcinogens to the body, even though the level of carcinogens is less than traditional cigarettes.

“Being less deadly than regular cigarettes does not make your product less safe to use,” Sward said. “There is a strong association between e-cigs, cigarettes, and other burned tobacco products by young people. There is not a safe level of nicotine use for kids until the age of 24.”

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