We must work with scientists to move tobacco alternatives forward

We must work with scientists to move tobacco alternatives forward

Representatives of the vaping industry have urged for broader collaboration with scientists as tobacco alternatives are ‘at a fork in the road’, reports ECigIntelligence


Industry stakeholders recently agreed that integrating technological innovations is key to making the transition to tobacco alternatives – despite a lack of dialogue with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Joe Murillo, chief regulatory officer for Juul Labs, told the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF 2021) in London that the industry lies “at a fork in the road”.

“Should we have policy driven by science and fact that encourages smokers to switch to less harmful products, or do we go down the road of prohibition and high tax that will hamper this change?” he asked.

Chairing the forum, Murillo said the industry was already publishing a “considerable” amount of science, but that there were still limitations to what it was capable of.

Bryan White, Juul’s senior vice president of hardware and firmware engineering, said one of the upcoming challenges the industry might face in the near future was the integration of artificial intelligence with vaping products. He added that there might be movement from companies such as Apple, which currently does not allow apps linked to tobacco companies into its app store.

Another innovation that experts agreed vaping companies should start looking at was synthetic nicotine.

Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapour Technology Association (VTA), said synthetic nicotine products might be ripe for research by US companies since they have been around already for a few years. Such products are still not specifically regulated in any US state except Colorado.

Among sessions at the GTNF was a so-called “fireside chat” between Murillo and Todd Cecil, deputy director of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) science office.

Cecil told the audience of the complicated and science-driven review process that products go through when premarket tobacco product applications (PMTAs) are submitted to the FDA. He confirmed that the agency was still working through many applications, with several well along in the process. Timing depended on the complexity of the application, he said.

Murillo said he had never seen so much pressure from public health organisations, which “almost ordered the agency to decide in a certain way”. Cecil insisted, however, that the FDA was not swayed by public opinion but by science.

The ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) was also brought up in panel discussions, especially after the event organisers decided to postpone to 2023 any discussion of tobacco alternatives.

During a panel entitled “Transforming the FCTC”, Derek Yach, founder and president of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World (FSFW), said the industry should focus on talking to individual governments and not keep trying unsuccessfully to establish a dialogue directly with the WHO.

Professor Ming Deng of Yunnan University in China added that parties to the FCTC should focus on “improving governance and the evolution of the global tobacco industry,” while the WHO “should make the information regarding nicotine consumption clear and widely available”.

“The FCTC should urge parties to publish what harm NGPs [next generation products] bear and how different that is from combustible tobacco products,” he added.

Deng proposed that any tobacco control regulation should be based on the status quo of each nation, as it was unlikely any one-size-fits-all solution would work for all.


What This Means: Although the various panels at the GTNF debated many challenges that lie ahead for the tobacco-alternatives industry, particularly in the realm of technological innovation, the PMTA process in the US was one of the hottest topics of discussion.

ECigIntelligence is the leading provider of detailed global market and regulatory analysis, legal tracking, and quantitative data for the e-cigarette, heated tobacco and combustible-alternatives sector worldwide.

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