Tobacco manufacturers are issuing strong health warnings on the packaging of their own e-cigarettes, The New York Times reports. Industry critics are skeptical of their motives.
The warnings are even stronger than those on packages of traditional cigarettes, the article notes. Altria, which makes Marlboros, warns on its packages of MarkTen e-cigarettes that “nicotine is addictive and habit forming, and is very toxic by inhalation, in contact with the skin or if swallowed.”
Reynolds American, which makes Camels, warns on its packages of Vuse e-cigarettes that the products are not intended for persons “who have an unstable heart condition, high blood pressure, or diabetes; or persons who are at risk for heart disease or are taking medicine for depression or asthma.”
The warnings are voluntary. Critics contend the companies are adding the warnings to labels to reduce their legal liability, or to improve their reputations. They are trying to earn legitimacy with consumers and regulators, while appearing more responsible than smaller e-cigarette companies, critics add.
“Is this part of a noble effort for the betterment of public health, or a cynical business strategy? I suspect the latter,” said Dr. Robert K. Jackler, a professor at the Stanford School of Medicine who studies cigarette and e-cigarette advertising.
Altria spokesman William Phelps said its MarkTen warnings reflect “a goal to openly and honestly communicate about health effects.” The warnings are based on “scientific research” and “previously developed warnings” on nicotine products, he told The New York Times.
Warnings printed on packs of Marlboros do not mention the addictive nature of cigarettes, or their link to cancer and other fatal diseases. Phelps said Altria uses warnings mandated by the government. Federal regulations do not prevent tobacco companies from using stronger warnings. Said Dr. Jackler, “Why wouldn’t you warn about ‘very toxic’ nicotine in your cigarettes when you do so on e-cigarettes?”