The electronic cigarette industry is rapidly growing and many smokers are choosing electronic cigarettes as a path to quit smoking. As electronic cigarettes sales boom, tobacco companies are quickly trying to recover their losses by launching their own vaping lines. Tobacco companies are not the only ones at risk for losing profits. Big Pharma is extremely invested in tobacco users with nicotine replacement therapies and smoking cessation drugs expected to be worth $4.6 billion per year by 2016. As electronic cigarettes cut into the potential profit margins, drug companies are actively lobbying to have the tobacco-free electronic cigarettes strictly regulated or banned.
The London Times was the first to report on a leaked memo from GlaxoSmithKline that revealed the drug company’s lobbying efforts. Glaxo offers multiple nicotine replacement products and they have a lot to lose if electronic cigarettes become the smoker’s choice for cessation. In the memo, Glaxo’s consumer healthcare division argued that electronic cigarettes should be regulated as medications instead of tobacco products. It went on to say that electronic cigarettes could act as a gateway, leading more people to start smoking.
As lawmakers debate how to set appropriate regulations for electronic cigarettes, there is no room for Big Pharma to cloud objectivity with selfish motivation. These drug companies should be required to disclose their funding and other involvement in electronic cigarette research because their studies are likely to be biased. Unfortunately, the drug companies have allies around the world including insiders at the FDA.
Lobbying is a major problem and the only way that it will stop is if the whistle is blown every time it’s discovered. Big Pharma has a lot of money to invest in making sure lawmakers take their best interests into consideration. Now that we know with 100% certainty that Big Pharma is targeting electronic cigarettes, is there any hope for fair regulation?