Experts Question Tobacco Companies’ Motives in Issuing E-Cigarette Warnings

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?”

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    Fr. Jack Kearney

    October 3, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    Reynolds asked the FDA to ban “open” vaping systems….the kind most people use to quit smoking….and protect the “closed” systems that represent their own, inferior product. Big Tobacco, like Big Pharma, is the enemy of e-cigs and the people who quit smoking using them.

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    Elaine Feeney

    October 1, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    I can envision a motive as an attempt to frighten e-cigarette smokers away from using that product. Since the nicotine addiction has not be treated, the craving for nicotine may move the smoker back to the regular cigarette. Tobacco companies have demonstrated time and time again that their motives are frequently multi-layered and not easily identified.

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    Phillip Bettin

    September 30, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    I think it is curious that the tobacco companies are involved in this strategy, It seems to me that most of the current research actually supports the consensus that e-cigarettes have less toxic/cancer causing ingredients than traditional cigarettes., it appears that the biggest issue with e-cigarettes is that users have a supply of liquefied nicotine around that could be ingested by young children/people.

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