Do Phillip Morris & British American vape shops threaten the vaping industry?
First there was the recent announcement that Phillip Morris may quit making conventional cigarettes entirely to instead focus on vape-like products like its IQOS. Days later, British American Tobacco (BAT) followed suit by announcing the opening of a vape shop in Milan specializing in a Vype-branded device called Pebble.
BAT boasts that the Milan employees will also focus on teaching customers how to use the device, a practice that will be, in part, theoretically banned in the United States thanks to the FDA deeming regulations. Phillip Morris is also launching a similar store in London, and company CEO Andre Calantzopoulos has even stated publicly that he believes vaping will very soon eliminate the conventional tobacco market altogether.
“I believe there will come a moment in time where I would say we have sufficient adoption of these alternative products … to start envisaging, together with governments, a phase-out period for cigarettes,” Calantzopoulos told a reporter for the BBC.
In contrast, BAT CEO Nicandro Durante is less certain that tobacco cigarettes will become obsolete anytime soon. Durante believes that gaining public acceptance of vaping will be a long, tough battle that may take decades, if it ever occurs at all. He likens the notion to the decades-long struggle of the beer industry in trying to convince the average beer drinker to replace their Budweiser and Michelob labels with non-alcoholic alternatives. It was a noble idea that never really caught hold.
However, British American has already spent over $1 billion in marketing research and product development for its heat-not-burn technology in the past five years. BAT’s Kingsley Winston believes the new Pebble device will be the first “next-generation product” to benefit from this significant financial investment.
The oval design is said to be “shaped like a pebble” and comes in a variety of bright colors. They look nothing like the traditional vape pens and box mods made of stainless steel that are currently flooding the market today, which seems to be part of British American’s marketing strategy.
“If we’re going to massify the market—inject life into it—we have to come up with these innovative, groundbreaking products,” says Wheaton.
Besides the Pebble device, BAT is also launching another vape-like product called Glo in Japan later this month. After the New Year, Vype Raptor is next in line for a massive promotional campaign. Wheaton says that this third product utilizes an entirely different method of vaporizing e-liquids, but the BAT executive remains secretive on the details.
Are British American and Phillip Morris taking over the vaping industry?
At least in the United States, the vaping industry is constantly under fire from anti-tobacco groups and federal agencies like the CDC and the FDA which have spent billions of dollars trying to convince the American Public that vaping is just as bad, if not worse, than conventional smoking. Now that Big Tobacco is jumping on the vaping bandwagon in such an obvious way, many in the vaping community wonder how this will affect government regulations now and in the future.
The FDA deeming regulations are essentially the very same regulations that the U.S. government has placed on Big Tobacco for decades. Vaping retailers must follow the same Pre-Market Tobacco Applications process as Big Tobacco and pay the very same million-dollar fees. The vaping industry has long argued that these requirements are unfair and unconstitutional since e-liquids are 100% tobacco-free.
So, if companies like British American and Phillip Morris are now admitting publicly that “vaping is the future,” what does this mean for the American vaping industry in the long term? Is this only proving the point of the CDC and the FDA that vaping is a gateway to smoking? Or will the enormous levels of political power and influence that Big Tobacco holds over Congressional Representatives and Senators ultimately help the vaping industry in the long term?