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Why Are Tobacco Companies So Positive About E-Cig Regulation?

electronic cigarettes
dikiy via Flickr, Creative Commons

Shortly after the F.D.A. announcednewly proposed regulations of the exploding E-Cigarette market, Greensboro-based Lorillard released  a statement on the matter:

Lorillard applauds the Agency's initial efforts to establish a reasonable regulatory framework for the electronic cigarette category. Lorillard has long-supported reasonable science-based regulation of electronic cigarettes such as establishing minimum age-of-purchase requirements, setting product quality and safety standards, and listing of ingredients and other relevant consumer information.

Richard Smith, Communications Manager at Reynolds American in Winston-Salem, echoed the applause for "science-based" regulations from the F.D.A.

"We believe the F.D.A. will regulate the  e-cigarette category based on sound science," Smith said.

In the past, lots of players in the e-cig market have referred to it as the "Wild West," noting that without some form of regulation, virtually anybody could be making their own vaporizers and selling them (so long as they didn't make any health claims).

In most cases, business frown upon regulation, saying it stifles innovation.

But, for Reynolds and Lorillard (the 2nd and 3rd largest tobacco companies in the U.S.), the regulations play to another strength: Their expertise in dealing with regulation.

In a market that has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 5 years into a multi-billion dollar industry (with use among teenagers doubling from 2011 to 2012), there are an estimated 200+ producers of e-cigs. And with the legacy players like Lorillard and Reynolds getting into the market, there's suggestion that they would either like to overtake those smaller competitors, or bring them into the fold.

WUNC's Catherine Brand talked with Richard Smith from Reynolds about the regulations and the company's shifting resources to the e-cig category.

Eric Mennel prepares the afternoon/evening "drive time" newscast on WUNC. Previously, he was a producer for The Story with Dick Gordon. Eric has reported for All Things Considered, This American Life, 99% Invisible and other radio programs. He covered protests and security measures at the 2012 Republican National Convention for WUSF Tampa and NPR News. One day, he hopes to own a home with a wrap-around porch.
Fed up with the frigid winters of her native state, Catherine was lured to North Carolina in 2006. She grew up in Wisconsin where she spent much of her time making music and telling stories. Prior to joining WUNC, Catherine hosted All Things Considered and classical music at Wisconsin Public Radio. She got her start hosting late-nights and producing current events talk shows for the station's Ideas Network. She later became a fill-in talk show host and recorded books for WPR's popular daily program, Chapter A Day.
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