Policy Documents

Research & Commentary: The Emergence of E-Cigarettes

June 26, 2013

Electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes,” have quickly become one of the most popular nicotine replacement products. The Wall Street Journal reports sales of e-cigarettes doubled in the United States over the past five years, moving from $250 million to $500 million in total sales. Some industry experts predict sales of e-cigarettes could reach $1 billion this year, doubling sales from 2012.

E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular with investors as well, even those traditionally opposed to smoking. Founders Fund, a San Francisco venture-capital fund started by PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, has invested around $5 million in e-cigarette ventures. This investment comes only eight years after Thiel partially financed a film satire on the tobacco industry, “Thank You for Smoking.”

In March 2013, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona joined the board of NJOY, a top-selling e-cigarette brand. After joining NJOY Carmona stated that although more study is needed on the effects of e-cigarettes, “initial information certainly suggests there is significant potential for harm reduction,” according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Opponents say the main focus of tobacco policy should be on total cessation and use of nicotine replacement products, including e-cigarettes, should be discouraged. They also criticize the availability of flavored e-cigarettes, arguing these products may be a gateway to regular tobacco use. They say nicotine replacement products should be used only as a tool to help users quit, not as a long-term alternative. 

Supporters of e-cigarettes say they are a viable option for smokers seeking a nicotine replacement therapy. Heartland Institute Senior Fellow Brad Rodu of the University of Louisville notes any health risks involved in using e-cigarettes or any other smoke-free tobacco product are small in comparison to smoking. 

E-cigarettes, like many other legal nicotine products, are not intended for use by minors. Expanding existing age laws for tobacco products to include e-cigarettes is a logical step in protecting against abuse and a reform on which almost all groups in the debate agree. However, legislators should not over-regulate or excessively tax e-cigarettes, because that would suppress an increasingly popular and successful method of helping Americans reduce smoking or quit altogether. 

The following articles examine electronic cigarettes and efforts to regulate their sale and use from multiple perspectives.

Electronic Cigarettes Are the Tobacco Harm Reduction Phenomenon of the Year—But Will They Survive?
Paul L. Bergen and Courtney E. Heffernan offer a brief history of the e-cigarette and a discussion of the merits and limitations of e-cigarettes in tobacco harm reduction. 

Effect of an Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (e-Cigarette) on Smoking Reduction and Cessation: A Prospective 6-month Pilot Study
In this prospective proof-of-concept study, researchers monitored possible modifications in smoking habits of 40 regular smokers (unwilling to quit) experimenting with e-cigarettes with a focus on smoking reduction and smoking abstinence. They found e-cigarette use substantially decreased cigarette consumption without significant side effects in smokers not intending to quit.

Research & Commentary: Electronic Cigarettes
In this Research & Commentary, Heartland Institute Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines electronic cigarettes, tobacco harm reduction, and various proposals to regulate e-cigarette use. E-cigarettes have quickly become one of the most popular nicotine replacement products and a key building block in tobacco harm reduction strategies. 

The E-Cigarette Revolution
Dr. Brad Rodu, senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and Endowed Chair in Tobacco Harm Reduction Research at the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center, discusses the rapid expansion of e-cigarette use and the increased investment in product development and quality. 

Heartland Daily Podcast: Dr. Brad Rodu: E-Cigarettes
Matthew Glans of The Heartland Institute speaks with Dr. Brad Rodu about electronic cigarettes and their role in tobacco harm reduction.

Electronic Cigarette Legislation Prohibiting Sale to Minors in Other States
This chart outlines the various proposals considered in several states that would prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. 

Electronic Cigarettes: Booming Industry or Health Fiasco?
Ilya Pozin of Forbes discusses the growth of the electronic cigarette market and its long-term possibilities, both positive and negative. 

Regulatory Options for Electronic Cigarettes
This fact sheet from the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium examines the perspective of e-cigarette opponents and provides a brief overview of e-cigarettes, their potential health risks, gaps in current federal and state regulation, and some approaches that state and local governments might consider in regulating their use, pricing, sale, and marketing. 

E-Cigarettes Fire Up Investors, Regulators
Mike Estrel of The Wall Street Journal reports on the growing market for e-cigarettes and how large groups of investors are investing millions in e-cigarette companies: “The market for e-cigarettes—battery-powered devices that turn heated, nicotine-laced liquid into vapor—is small but growing rapidly, in part because they are increasingly seen as less harmful than conventional cigarettes.” 

E-Cigarettes, Cigars and the FDA’s New Powers
Smoking is bad for you, but the FDA’s new powers to regulate tobacco may create some unhealthy incentives when it comes to bringing new, possibly safer products to market. Blogger and writer Jacob Grier of the Cato Institute describes the new regulatory landscape since 2009 in this video.

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit The Heartland Institute’s Web site at http://heartland.org, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at www.policybot.org

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland Legislative Specialist Matthew Glans at 312/377-4000 or mglans@heartland.org.