The future of the electronic cigarettes industry appeared more assured this week following the publication of a number of key reports, and wider industry developments.
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) today published draft guidance on nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, including electronic cigarettes - which are not currently licenced by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
NICE acknowledged that while the current absence of licencing meant that there was “much less evidence on the effectiveness, safety and quality of electronic cigarettes,” they were still “likely to be less harmful” than tobacco cigarettes.
It also recognised the sector’s rapid growth, and welcomed the fact that an MHRA decision on the licensing requirements of electronic cigarettes in expected in early 2013.
NICE also recommends that all tobacco retailers display NRT products such as patches and inhalators that are licensed by the MHRA as pharmaceutical treatments for cutting down or quitting smoking.
Last week a study into electronic cigarette vapour by Informa Healthcare determined that they posed “no significant risk” of harm to human health.
Meanwhile, all work on updating the EU Tobacco Products Directive, thought to contain legislation relating to the sale of electronic cigarettes, has been halted for the foreseeable future, following the resignation of the EU Health Commissioner after his office was investigated for potential fraud.
John Dalli lost his post after being accused of improper conduct in a tobacco lobbying case involving manufacturer Swedish Match by the EU’s anti-fraud office Olaf.
Electronic cigarettes are now thought to be used by almost 10% of all UK smokers, and a recent online poll by Convenience Store revealed that 67% of readers now stock them.
“My sales of electronic cigarettes are increasing by almost 30% a month at the moment,” Matt Gibbons, of Gluggles off-licence in York told Convenience Store.
“Last week, for the first time ever, my sales of electronic cigarettes actually beat my sales of tobacco products on two out of seven days.
“Smokers that cannot or don’t want to stop smoking, can use an electronic cigarette to dramatically reduce the harm to their health. The profit margins are also considerably higher than tobacco so it’s a win-win for everyone,” he added.
“Electronic cigarettes are a must stock item for convenience stores these days,” Seaford News owner Bipin Haria from East Sussex added. “At the moment I sell about £600 worth of electronic cigarettes a month, which isn’t vast, but when you consider that I’m making a 40% margin, it’s not bad at all!”