E-cigarette experts at expos unclear but upbeat

Las Vegas Paris Rick Harrison





Paris and Las Vegas: ECigIntelligence director, Tim Phillips recently chaired the E-cig Vegas: Industry Conference discussion panels where experts debated the current business climate in the sector, the upcoming Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deeming regulations and the science surrounding e-cigarettes.

At Vapexpo in Paris meanwhile, Nick Wenbourne, ECigIntelligence legal and regulatory director, discussed the EU’s upcoming Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) and how it related to areas such as standardisation and good manufacturing practices.

Attendees at the Las Vegas, Nevada event ranged from big tobacco firms such as RJ Reynolds and Altria to independent e-cigarette companies, financial analysts, scientists and representatives from ancillary industries including flavouring, packaging and distribution companies.

On the financial side, Bonnie Herzog of Wells Fargo, Nik Modi of Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Erik Bloomquist of Bloomberg gave presentations on the current business climate and future outlook for e-cigarettes and other non-combustible tobacco-related products.

The speakers agreed that the future is largely unclear but that big tobacco will play a large role in determining it. Overall however, they were upbeat with Herzog continuing to hold the view that the sales of non-combustibles as a whole would outstrip traditional cigarettes within a decade, although it was still unclear which particular product in the category would become the dominant one.

This was due to the unique nature of the nicotine market. E-cigarettes and other harm-reduction products could be adapted much quicker than other disruptive technologies due to the inherent health risks of combustible tobacco products and the desire to find safer alternatives.

Presenters discussing the upcoming FDA deeming regulations, including Cynthia Cabrera from the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Alliance (SFATA), Bill Bartkowski, president of the VapApria Corporation, James Swauger, vice president of regulatory oversight at RAI Servcies and Brian Haynes, partner at Troutman Sanders, were also unclear about the eventual impact the measures could have on the sector.

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    The implementation timeline was a big talking point, with predictions varying from a starting point next summer to as much as nine years. How the FDA would handle pre-market appellation was also a subject of much interest.

    Gal Cohen, head of scientific and regulatory affairs at Ploom, gave a presentation on the various submissions to the FDA’s consultation and where they stood. Cohen predicted that the FDA would listen to the various stakeholders and come out with final regulations that took a position somewhere in the middle.

    The presenters also looked at some of the science around e-cigarettes with Mike Siegel of Boston University giving an interesting look at how – despite FDA funding – a number of important gaps in the understanding of e-cigarettes remained.

    Since the conference ended Professor Siegel has discontinued the Behavioral Study of Cigarette and Tobacco Substitution (BSCiTS) fundraising campaign he had been running. He cited divisiveness within the e-cigarette community as the main reason behind this – particularly pressure to compromise study objectivity.

    “We are unwilling to compromise our scientific integrity in order to conduct a study on behalf of the e-cigarette community,” he said. “We came to realize that the current climate within the e-cigarette community is not conducive to conducting objective behavioural research at the level of rigor upon which we insist. Ultimately, we have to place our own scientific integrity ahead of the desire to successfully secure research funding.”

    Meanwhile in France, proposed regulations commanded similar attention. Speakers discussed what the final version of the TPD will look like and how it will affect the industry. As well as Wenbourne, speakers such as Nicola Jollye, from the Electronic Cigarette Consumer Association (ECCA); Arnaud Dumas de Rauly, from the Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la VAPE (FIVAPE); and a speech written by Frédérique Ries of the European Parliament all contributed to the discussion.

    Videos are available, although the translation can be misleading at times.

    Other topics discussed in France included whether the sector will see the creation of ‘big vape’ in a similar vein to ‘big pharma’ or ‘big tobacco’. There were also conversations around whether big tobacco represented a threat to the e-cigarette industry as well as what the EU could learn from current trends in US regulation.

    Overall, the events were considered a success. France’s Vapexpo counted over 6,400 visitors, while Las Vegas attracted  an estimated 120 high profile attendees.

    Freddie Dawson – ECigIntelligence staff

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    Freddie Dawson

    Senior news editor
    Freddie studied at King’s College, London and City University and worked for publications including The Times, The Malay Mail, PathfinderBuzz and Solar Summary before joining the ECigIntelligence team. He has extensive experience in covering fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), manufacturing and technological innovation.

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