I bought a new calendar today. One with big boxes to write stuff in and big enough print to see it without having to walk up to the wall. I already have a calendar app on my phone, one which syncs my social media and email appointments and audible reminders while presenting me with nifty quotes of the day. But there is something familiar and convenient about a big picture with the whole month visible at a glance hanging on the wall and covering the dogy plasterwork. I like turning over the leaves each month, looking forward to the next pretty picture.
As I throw out the old one and look back on the last year, I thought it hasn’t been all bad. Nothing devastating happened. Which is a relief, as at this time last year things were a lot less optimistic.
The fear loomed large.
America was looking forward to the FDA’s deeming rules coming into operation, with Tim Mechling, of Mt Baker saying:
“2017 will be a trial-by-fire for bigger vape companies, and a death knell for mom-and-pop vape shops.”
Sadly many vendors did close their doors but at least the FDA extended the deadline and announce a new “continuum of risk” approach to nicotine products.
Over in Europe things stood still with Brexit dominating the agenda. Brexit proved to be no panacea to the TPD. It seems the UK is stuck with the regs for a long time yet.
We in Ireland expected little and got not less for once, a HIQA report almost endorsed vaping and the government announced they had no plans to include vaping in the smoking ban.
Italy taxed e-juice at €4 per 10ml e-liquid. Italy’s monopoly on tobacco sales complicates the issue but it’s telling that actual tobacco product like BAT’s Glo and PMI’s Iqos get off with a very low tax imposition.
Down under, Australia held fast to its prohibitionist stance while New Zealand moved to sensible regulation.
But that calendar is now in the bin, I have a new one hanging in its place so let’s speculate what will fill it up.
Let’s get out the crystal ball!
This year will, I think, see Heat not Burn take the spotlight for regulators and tobacco control. Expect to see far more ‘studies‘ on HnB. Heat not Burn is probably not as safe as vaping or oral tobacco such as Snus but it may well be safe enough to offer huge health benefits for consumers. Both regulation and distribution already fit HnB better than they fit vaping which has had to build its own distribution from the ground up while fighting regulation designed for a different product, smoked tobacco. HnB has the backing of big tobacco and could expand far faster than vaping did, possibly gaining ground before tobacco control can whip up enough opposition, but importantly without disrupting the government’s income stream from tobacco. It also has the advantage of riding the coattails of vaping in reducing the opposition to reduced harm products and creating a space for alternative nicotine products.
Things will become slightly easier for vaping as more and more evidence of its effectiveness as a smoking replacement and less and less evidence of any harm is found. It will morph in form-factor slightly, as it becomes a much more mass market product, expect to see more pod or cartridge style products as vaping seeks to claim the hardened smoker and compete with HnB. The success of the JUUL e-cig by Pax Labs won’t go unnoticed and no doubt will result in similar devices. Though the regulations in the TPD may delay this, the need to compete with HnB and satisfy consumer demand for simpler products makes it inevitable. Overcoming the TPD limitations is going to be challenging.
The big hurdle to clear is public perception.
Without official endorsement by public health bodies, its going to be an uphill struggle to overcome the campaign of Fear, uncertainty and doubt peddled by the tobacco control lobby. The stubborn refusal of the WHO to acknowledge harm reduction in tobacco is frustrating. Nevermind the mocking comments from non-vapers looking for cheap laughs.
Vaping will still have to fight for space in the market both on the regulation front and taxation. I expect to see some moves to either tax or increase the tax on vaping products in their own right. Currently, vaping is covered by VAT and other consumer taxes but escapes the tobacco duty. This will come under pressure as revenue from lit tobacco falls, if HnB gets a license here then I expect that to be the point when full taxation will be applied to vaping.
The extension of smoking bans to vaping will continue to spread piecemeal as more and more bars and public spaces are lobbied by tobacco control to ‘set the lead on this’. It’s already happened on college campus despite the evidence and will be extended further.
I also expect to see much more consumer advocacy emerging as the success of the UK advocacy movement becomes apparent compared with the restrictions imposed elsewhere. Let’s just say I feel that one “in me water” for now.