Steve Chapman explains how tobacco companies core business remains cigarettes. From there, he gets here:

There is now a small group of experts in public health who are now openly or covertly collaborating with the tobacco industry over e-cigarettes. They are being comprehensively played. In mouthing its newfound concern for tobacco’s harms, the industry’s harm-reduction division personnel can now cosy up to a suite of naïve or historically amnesic public heath urgers who lend Big Tobacco a credibility it craves.

Meanwhile, down the Big Tobacco corridor in the cigarette divisions, the harm-reduction staff’s colleagues continue promoting smoking and attempting to thwart effective tobacco control as usual.

Notably, the link goes to the Times article that has launched lawsuits and has resulted in at least one apology from the Times:

A group of scientists and public health experts are to take legal action against the Times newspaper after it reported claims from a leading charity that they were in the pay of the tobacco industry.

The experts, who work in fields that aim to limit deaths and health complications caused by smoking, are looking to sue the Times for defamation following a story that termed them “experts making a packet”.

The Times has published an apology to one of the scientists cited, Clive Bates, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health. The correction stated that he had funded his own travel and accommodation costs at an industry-sponsored tobacco forum in Brussels and had not received any funding from tobacco or nicotine companies.

But other scientists say that the same apology was not extended to them and they claim they have been falsely accused of accepting “tens of thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes”.

Lewis Silkin, a legal firm specialising in libel, will be acting on behalf of five scientists, including professor Karl Fagerström, an expert in addiction science. “My life’s work has been built on helping reduce the death toll from tobacco smoking. Yet The Times has portrayed me and my colleagues as hirelings of big tobacco,” he said. “The Times has chosen to traduce our reputations. Now it is time for the paper to profusely apologise or face a battle it will not win.”

The irony here, of course, is that Chapman and “Big Tobacco” are on the same side here, more or less. Both see ecigarettes as a threat to their respective interests. It’s probably that one of them is wrong, however. Most likely it’s Chapman. Chapman, as do many anti-vaping advocates, frames ecigarettes as the latest attempt by Big Tobacco to sell a not-safer product (like low tar cigarettes). This leaves aside some important things, such as that ecigarettes were largely started by third-parties and coopted by ecigarette companies.

What Chapman fails to investigate is why Big Tobacco doesn’t view vaping as its future. There are multiple answers, most of which don’t really correspond with what he’s saying. For example, ecigarettes may not be as addictive as cigarettes, therefore the customer base is less captured. There is also the fact that, contra the picture he paints, many big market participants aren’t tobacco companies and so the competition is more stiff., which would indicate that Big Tobacco’s cigarette margins remain as high as they are because tobacco controllers have placed enormous barriers to competition.

I do actually share Chapman’s concerns that Big Tobacco want ecigarettes to function primarily as a dual-use bridge. A future in which Big Tobacco controls the industry is one in which ecigarettes likely remain weak and comparatively ineffectual as quitting aides. It’s just a shame that the FDA has so recently made their job a lot easier. With innovation stifled, it may become harder to have a real cigarette replacement.

Both Chapman and Big Tobacco are fine with that.


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