By Martinne Geller
(Reuters) – The health warning on a MarkTen electronic cigarette package is 116 words long.
That’s much longer than the warnings on traditional cigarette packs in the United States. Nicotine, the e-cigarette warning says, is “addictive and habit-forming, and it is very toxic by inhalation, in contact with the skin, or if swallowed.” It is not intended for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, or people … who take medicine for depression or asthma. “Nicotine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure and cause dizziness, nausea and stomach pain,” says MarkTen, a leading brand in the United States. The ingredients can be “poisonous.”
MarkTen’s parent company Altria, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, said the language seemed appropriate. There is no required health warning on electronic cigarettes in the United States, so “we had to do what we thought was right,” said a spokesman for Altria Client Services.
Derek Yach, a director at Vitality Institute, a health research company, doubts there is any “conspiratorial effort” to crush the new business. But he says that “if the dominant message is one of doubt, then the status quo gets maintained.” Yach once headed tobacco control at the World Health Organization and worked at PepsiCo.
Japan Tobacco International, the world’s third-largest tobacco company, thinks strict regulations could hurt young firms. “If you make it extremely hard (to comply), you would drive small companies out of business,” said Ian Jones, JTI’s head of scientific and regulatory affairs for emerging products. “You would lose the value of the category, you would lose the spark.”
For Yach, the former WHO tobacco official, regulators should remember that e-cigarettes are more than a new business. “A heavy smoker has a 20 times greater risk of lung cancer,” Yach said. “Switch to e-cigarettes and that risk is virtually going to zero.”
(Edited by Sara Ledwith)
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