For years now, anyone remotely interested in electronic cigarettes has known that there have been dark forces at work behind the scenes. We are not just talking about the FDA here either. While they may indeed be annoying and incompetent at times in their approach to the industry, pretty much most of what they do is transparent. It’s slow, but it’s still transparent.
It’s a shame that we cannot say the same thing about the big pharmaceutical companies that are currently lobbying against electronic cigarettes. We found a couple of interesting articles about this issue and would like to talk today about the worrying trend that involves major pharmaceutical companies trying to smear electronic cigarettes as poor quality smoking cessation aids. And we are going to start with looking at one of the biggest companies that has been found to do this, GlaxoSmithKline.
They don’t sell e-cigs, that’s for sure
This particular pharmaceutical company is huge. Let’s take a quick look at what kind of things it sells. It sells hundreds of consumer pharmaceutical products, from skincare products to toothpaste. But it has also worked to bring new vaccines to the world, and has made some inroads towards HIV and AIDS management.
The problem is that the company also produces smoking cessation products. It produces Commit, for example, which is a lozenge that you can use to help you reduce your chances of having to smoke cigarettes. What this means is that if they lobby against electronic cigarettes there is only reason for this. They don’t want the competition.
And the company has also made it clear that they want e-cigs to be regulated like every other THR option (most of which it creates):
“Safety is our number one priority and we support the smoker’s right to choose from a selection of products that have well established safety and efficacy profile in helping them quit smoking,”
Simon Steel, Glaxo
Fine for GSK to hate vapers, really
Of course, there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this. Potentially. It’s possible to argue that if you have a competitor in your industry then you should try and find ways to point out your superiority. The only problem is that GSK has lobbied, and has not made it particularly clear that it has a conflict of interest. It makes perfect sense that GSK should be against electronic cigarettes; because electronic cigarettes could seriously threaten the companies’ hold on the tobacco harm reduction market.
Which brings us to an event earlier this year that GSK was involved in. The company leaked out what was effectively a press release to the media in the UK, stating that electronic cigarettes were a gateway to tobacco smoking. Yep, Tom Frieden would’ve been very proud of it.
By doing this, the company was effectively trying to badmouth electronic cigarettes. At the same time, the company has clear competitor products.
The company has quite vigorously lobbied for electronic cigarette regulation in Europe. This means that it is trying to prevent electronic cigarettes from growing as an industry, while at the same time using the media to promote this crusade. On top of all of this, it has those products that could be threatened by the growth of e-cigs.
GSK has huge conflict of interest when it discusses e-cigs
So telling the media that electronic cigarettes are a gateway product can be seen as nothing other then a huge conflict of interest.
When someone reads stuff like this in the media and they start to believe it, it could be the kind of thing that turns them off using electronic cigarettes. Fair enough, most electronic cigarettes users, if not all of them, are ex-smokers, but if you tell anyone that what you’re using is converting young people into tobacco smokers, it’s far from pleasant.
A pharmaceutical company that makes THR products should not be allowed to talk to the media about electronic cigarettes. And if you are talking to the media on this topic, full disclosure should be in place regarding company’s own interests in the industry.
There was a big kerfuffle a few months ago about making electronic cigarettes medicinal products. This has not yet happened, but when it does, the big pharmaceutical companies will quite easily squash any smaller, more independent electronic cigarette or juice retailer.
In fact, it’s probably a good idea to consider retracting statements. Any reasonable, sane observer would note that GSK has broken some rules here. Surely media watchdogs and government figures should ask the pharmaceutical companies that comment on electronic cigarettes to both declare their interests in their printed comments and retract any historical comments that did not declare these interests.
Isn’t that the grown-up, professional thing to do? Otherwise we don’t have a level playing field, and big companies that have millions of dollars behind them are able to squash smaller companies and individuals who are just trying to help people live happier and healthier lives.
GSK should be thoroughly ashamed. It is not only preventing people from making progress with their health through e-cigs, but also spreading nonsense such as the gateway argument. We hope this kind of rubbish doesn’t continue.