E-cigarettes can be gateway to tobacco, warns rival Glaxo
One of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies has warned lawmakers that electronic cigarettes could act as a “gateway to tobacco” .
The leaked correspondence from GlaxoSmithKline, whose nicotine patches, gums and lozenges are being undermined by the burgeoning e-cigarette market, reveals the opposition from the pharmaceutical industry to impending regulation of e-cigarettes across the European Union.
The pharmaceutical industry wants medicines licences to be mandatory for e-cigarettes, as they are for nicotine products. Instead, the EU is set to introduce a system in which e-cigarette companies can opt in for medicines regulation or be regulated in a similar way to traditional cigarettes.
In the letter sent to Jane Ellison, the Health Minister, last October, GSK warned that a “two-tier nicotine system” in Europe would “seriously disadvantage proven nicotine replacement therapy products”.
This is a blatant attempt at rent-seeking by an obvious vested interest. We know that the pharmaceutical industry has been lobbying hard to hamper the growth of e-cigarettes so it comes as no surprise to find Glaxo using the tired old gateway argument.
The truth is that e-cigarettes will only "seriously disadvantage" the NRT market if they work better as quitting aids. In my experience—and the experience of countless other people—e-cigarettes are much better substitutes for smoking. If they were really a "gateway" to smoking, e-cigarettes would be good for companies like Glaxo as they would create more smokers (NRT companies need there to be smokers just as much as cigarette companies do).
Glaxo are entitled to lobby, of course, as are McNeil, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and any other seller of nicotine products. But it is strange that the 'public health' lobby portrays trivial gifts such as a crate of beer or a ticket to a flower show as major conflicts of interests while saying barely a peep about the vastly greater sums of money that flow from pharmaceutical companies like GSK to anti-smoking groups such as the Tackling Tobacco Network and Anna Gilmore's UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies. Or, indeed, the World Health Organisation itself (normally I would link to this speech, but the WHO has removed it—you can read the important part in this post).
Meanwhile, tickets are still available for the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference, featuring Linda Bauld, Anna Gilmore and various other neo-prohibitionists. Sessions include the 'GSK symposium' and the 'Pfizer symposium'.
As usual, both these companies are main sponsors of the conference—apparently there is no problem having corporations that are vociferously opposed to the most promising development in smoking cessation paying for a conference about smoking cessation.
As I have said before, I'd rather see events like this funded privately than by the taxpayer, but since the 'public health' lobby is so obsessed with ad hominem attacks and 'follow the money' smears, how about a little consistency?