Big tobacco may be back on top with profit gains the past few years, but RJ Reynolds, Lorillard, and Altria aren’t going to sit on their windfalls. Each one of them understand that traditional tobacco cigarettes are on the way out in the long term. Electronic cigarettes, among other products, are taking over their market and they have all lined up to get a piece of it.
It was only a few years ago that those very same mammoth companies were fighting against the e-cigarette revolution, but now they are pushing e-cigarette brands Vuse, MarkTen, and Blu ecig. But they don’t only want to succeed with their own brands; they want to lock down the market completely.
There may be a little bit of cynicism in this, but it has hard to believe statements from people like RJ Reynolds CEO Susan Cameron and take them at face value. “The opportunity that is before us calls for a sense of urgency, particularly in the development of policies regarding vapor,” she said while pushing for regulation.
For her and her cohorts at Lorillard (who is in the process of being purchased by RJ Reynolds), the time is now to get the industry aligned. While we agree with that in many ways, such as safety standards and prohibitions on sales to minors, we doubt that their push is completely altruistic. After all, we are talking about a $3 billion industry that is sure to grow even bigger.
Big Tobacco And The EVapor Industry
What RJ Reynolds, Lorillard, and Altria all want is the entire market for themselves.
So when they speak of regulation, they don’t only mean what we advocate for ourselves, but also a clamp down on vital parts of the e-cigarette revolution, like open systems and e-cigarette flavors.
These big companies have all dealt with their fair share of legal problems from all of the tobacco lawsuits they were hit with in the 80s and 90s.
They don’t want to take any chances anymore and so they leave more “questionable” parts of the market such as open e cig tank systems and attractive e cigarette flavors to others. But if they can’t take advantage of the growing market for e cig tank systems, they don’t want anyone else to either.
“The future is still ours to shape” said Susan Cameron, and obviously she meant the future of the electronic cigarette industry. Using similar scare tactics that opponents of e-cigarettes in general use, her and Lorillard CEO Murray Kessler have been going on record about the lack of guidelines for open systems. “They could threaten the long-term viability of the vapor category,” Cameron said recently. “And that would be an epic failure.”
You have to wonder if he really believes the entire vapor category is in doubt, or just his company’s chances of crushing the little guy without the help of e-cig regulation slanted in the favor of RJ Reynolds, Lorillard, and Altria.
After all, there is a reason why open e cig tank systems draw a lot of consumers in. While they certainly aren’t for everyone, they do provide some benefits that help a great many smokers make the switch away from traditional tobacco cigarettes. The same goes for e-cigarette flavors, another topic of contention as Vuse, MarkTen, and Blu ecig offer little in the way of variety there if at all.
They must all see the same numbers we see and they understand that the market for e-cigarettes is growing in diverging ways that can help different people in different ways. The fact that they are set on their own way and nothing else shouldn’t determine the viability of those other options for smokers that really do need more choices.
This is a battle we are going to hear a lot about in the coming months and years as the FDA moves the industry toward regulation. We still do believe there can be a lot of good in “cleaning up” the wild wild west of an industry we have now and giving it even more mainstream appeal, along with higher standards.
Nobody should be puffing on an e-cig that is produced poorly and the FDA can help with that. What they, and we, need to watch out for is the power of big tobacco to come in and try to take over the evapor industry. RJ Reynolds, Lorillard, and Altria may sound friendly and supportive of e-cigarettes, but don’t be fooled, if they had their wish they would lock down the industry completely so they can real the profits all for themselves.