A growing market with huge potential.
Although still not legal in New Zealand, nicotine e-cigarettes could play a significant role in helping to reduce the public health impact of tobacco use.
E-cigarettes are cigarette-shaped products containing a nicotine-based liquid that is vaporised and inhaled. They can be used by cigarette smokers as a substitute for the experience of smoking tobacco. There is no combustion so the user inhales vapour, not smoke. Although the nicotine in e-cigarettes is derived from tobacco, e-cigarettes contain no actual tobacco.
A typical e-cigarette consists of three main components: a battery, a heating element and a cartridge containing water, nicotine and other ingredients, including glycerol or propylene glycol, known as ‘e-liquid’. When a user inhales on the device, a sensor detects air flow and the e-liquid is heated so that it turns into vapour, which delivers nicotine to the user. What looks like exhaled smoke is largely odourless vapour.
In recent years, there has been an emergence of e-cigarette products on the market in many countries around the world, and that trend looks set to continue. We think that e-cigarettes and other innovative nicotine product categories could play an important role in helping to reduce the public health impacts of cigarette smoking and other tobacco use.
We place great strategic importance on our work in this area of tobacco harm reduction. Our intention is to be a leader in these new product categories.
At British American Tobacco, we understand the different elements of what smokers like about the experience they get from cigarettes. This means we can better meet the needs of those smokers who are seeking an alternative to cigarettes.
We’re a business that’s best placed to deliver such alternatives – after all, we understand what consumers want, have world-class research and development capabilities, adhere to robust product and quality standards, have a global reach, and market our products responsibly.
If we are successful in developing a range of products that meet the needs of adult smokers seeking safer alternatives to cigarettes, this will help to meet the objectives of a number of leading public health professionals. And, of course, it will also make commercial business sense for us and for our shareholders.
We support a regulatory approach that puts consumer safety and product quality first. After that, it’s about allowing the appropriate level of innovation, distribution and marketing to encourage growth. Alternative products should, of course, not appeal to children in any way, and sales should be restricted to over 18s.
E-cigarettes deliver nicotine without smoke toxicants. Consumer research suggests that, as using e-cigarettes is closer to the experience of smoking tobacco, they are the first product with the potential to encourage meaningful numbers of smokers to reduce or stop smoking conventional cigarettes. They could therefore play a significant role in helping to reduce the public health impact of tobacco use.
We think that further product development can build on the success of e-cigarettes, achieving greater public health benefits and providing a commercial opportunity. When manufactured to robust quality and safety standards, e-cigarettes are considered to be substantially less harmful than regular cigarettes. However, no product is free from risk.
Questions have been asked about the possible long-term effects of inhaling substances found in e-liquids, such as glycerol and propylene glycol. Although these ingredients are commonly approved for use in food and medicines, we believe that more research is needed in relation to their inhalation, and so are planning our own studies in this area.