By Steve Kryworuka
2012 will be remembered as the year where electronic cigarettes came into their own and gathered the attention of millions. From debates over safety and efficacy to big tobacco’s foray into the industry, there were countless major industry news items in the media.
So many, in fact, they all couldn’t fit into a single article, or even several articles. We’ve had to be very selective in choosing the highlights from 2012 for this e-cigarette news year in review article. From January to December, there were big stories every month. Let’s start in January 2012 and work our way to the end of the year.
2012 started big with not one, but two studies about e-cigarettes and health being published. One study was positive, the other was also mostly positive, but certain groups exaggerated portions of the study to meet their agendas.
- A study is released that measures impact on e-cigarettes on respiratory system. This is the study many prohibitionist groups often cite as finding “airway constriction.” Many groups and scientists come out against the study.
- We Are Vapers is started, an independent documentary project to look at e-cigarette users and how the devices impacted their lives kicks off fundraising efforts.
- Dr. Polosa, an Italian doctor releases a study that finds e-cigarettes are very effective at getting smokers, even those who don’t want to quit to cut down or switch entirely to e-cigarettes.. We also published an interview with Dr. Polosa.
- ASH UK is cited in a newspaper article as e-cigarettes potential benefit as a harm-reduction tool.
- A group advising the FDA on tobacco policy holds a hearing about dissolvable tobacco products. Tobacco harm reduction proponents and e-cigarette users alike turn out in droves to talk about harm reduction. Dr. Carl Phillips gives a somewhat unique presentation as well.
The second month of 2012 didn’t present new studies. However, an incident involving a battery explosion in a personal vaporizer rocked the e-cigarette world and sent the media into a feeding frenzy.
- A Florida man suffers injuries when the batteries used in his personal vaporizer device explode. Full details of the story are never released, coverage of the incident can be found here and here.
- A number of traditional e-cigarette companies do their best to distance their product from the enthusiast product that was likely at the root of the Florida incident. Some companies take the opportunity to attack the e-cigarette industry and some vapers alike.
- The state of Hawaii proposes a staggering 70% tax on e-cigarette related products. Amid a huge outpouring of protest, the state drops the idea.
- The California Attorney General begins threatening California-based e-liquid sellers and manufacturers with legal action for selling flavored e-liquid.
- A somewhat unstable airline passenger forces a Portland, Oregon originating flight to turn around. Initial media reports highlight the man was using an e-cigarette and refused to stop. Later reports revealed the man was making terrorist threats and abusing staff.
There were no earth-shattering scandals, or terrorist threats during march. This month did feature a major indoor vaping ban and progress in a much anticipated study.
- German police seize 45,000 bottles of e-liquid from a local manufacturer in an apparent crackdown.
- On a happier note, e-cigarette users across the world celebrate at independent events across the world in the first annual World Vaping Day.
- The state of Utah adds electronic cigarettes to its existing clean air act, effectively imposing strict limits on vaping in the state despite intense efforts by groups like Utah Vapers. A local paper published an article written by the head of that group.
- A UK company launches a pilot program providing e-cigarettes to employees in an attempt to improve efficiency.
- IVAQS (indoor vapor air quality study) is submitted for publication. This study took several years to put together and was funded entirely from donations from the vaping community.
April was mostly a slow month for e-cigarette news. Except, of course for quite possibly one of the biggest news stories of the year.
- Lorillard, the makers of Newport acquires e-cigarette company blu Cigs in a multi-million dollar deal.
- The MHRA calls for tighter controls of e-cigarettes, despite controls already being in place.
- A new study finds that nicotine can enhance memory.
- Unrelated to the Florida incident, a Colorado man sues an e-cigarette company for a battery explosion.
May 2012 was sort of a mixed grab-bag of news stories. It briefly looked like the FDA was getting ready to strike. The biggest story was a breakthrough study that came from Greece.
- A Greek cardiologist releases a study examining the impact of e-cigarettes on the cardiovascular system. The study finds no negative effects as a result. We later interview the doctor about this study and e-cigarettes.
- In a proposal request, the FDA indicates it will begin regulating e-cigarettes and other tobacco products in the summer of 2012 (the regulations never come to pass in 2012).
- A Canadian industry group known as the ECTA of Canada launches.
- For the first time ever, an e-cigarette ban is reversed in Springfield, Missouri.
- Ruyan begins exerting patent muscle against other e-cigarette companies.
Half way through 2012, another study that puts electronic cigarettes in a positive light makes the rounds. Assorted other stories make the rounds as well.
- A study out of Italy funded by flavoring company FlavorArt and announced by Utah Vapers specifically looks at second-hand vapor.
- Analysts speculate on future e-cigarette industry consolidation on the heels of the Lorillard takeover of Blu.
- Meanwhile in East Yorkshire, potentially unsafe and uncertified e-cigarettes are pulled from a local market.
- Despite the Clearstream study finding no impact of second-hand vapor, blogger Dick Puddlecote reports some people are claiming there is third-hand vapor. The concept is based on the somewhat controversial idea of third-hand smoke.
- A UK bingo hall ejects a grandmother from the establishment for using an e-cigarette.
As the summer heat began to ratchet up, so did the intensity of e-cigarette industry news. From stories with global reach, to ones that more impacted the vaping community on a local level, there were a couple of noteworthy things going on this month.
- A Staffordshire bus passenger reports suspicious activity on the bus. Police scramble a full terrorism response to what turns out to be a man using an e-cigarette on the bus.
- The Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy attempts to disrupt a meeting of vapers at a local hotel. Ellen Hahn, the president of the group sends a letter with exaggerated and misleading claims of harm to the hotel manager in an attempt to stop the event.
- A small-scale clinical study in Colorado is announced. The study aims to evaluate e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.
- Local officials in New Mexico claim an e-cigarette used by a firefighter started a wildfire. A local news station later reports numerous cigarette butts were found in the area around the fire, and they were unable to start a fire in the tests they conducted.
August was a good month for e-cigarette and nicotine studies. It was also a bad month to be an e-cigarette retailer with a Facebook page.
- A New Zealand newspaper notes that the University of Auckland is looking for 650 local volunteers for a study regarding the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in quitting smoking.
- The previously mentioned Clearstream study on second-hand vapor is accepted for presentation at a major tobacco research conference.
- The Ashtray Blog interviews an expert on diabetes about the effects of smoking and of electronic cigarettes on persons with the disease.
- Facebook, without warning, deletes pages of some electronic cigarette retailers (including ours) citing a violation of terms of service.
An EU report with favourable comments about THR tippexed out. Other favourable sections were rewritten.
The weather started to cool for many people in September, but not the e-cigarette news stories. A negatively spun study from the beginning of the year was finally published. A couple of bloggers do some detective work, some of which will continue to play a role throughout the rest of 2012.
- The Greek study noting airway constriction that was first announced in January finally reaches publication igniting another round of prohibitionist groups claiming e-cigarettes to be dangerous.
- Velvet Glove, Iron Fist uncovers a leaked EU tobacco directive publication. The publication calls for continued prohibition of snus in the EU and potentially similar treatment for electronic cigarettes.
- On the heels of the leaked EU documents, Dick Puddlecote notes similarities between the EU’s proposal and the stance the WHO is taking on electronic cigarettes.
- Dr. Michael Siegel publishes the first of several posts correlating groups that oppose electronic cigarettes with funding from drug companies that make smoking cessation drugs.
- A new study comes out from Poland that surveys young people about e-cigarettes. The study found many have heard of or tried ecigs, but few continued to use them.
Autumn brought a major scandal in the European Union. In the US, e-liquid manufacturers formed an industry group, and a study finally reached publication after a long journey. Elsewhere in the world, some countries took less enlightened approaches.
- John Dalli, the commissioner in charge of the tobacco products director resigns amid accusations of knowledge of bribes offered by a snus manufacturer.
- The community-funded IVAQs study mentioned several times throughout this 2012 review is finally published ending a years long journey.
- The American E-Liquids Manufacturing Standards Association is started by a small group of small US e-liquid manufacturers to promote safety standards across the industry.
- The country of Costa Rica considers a complete import ban of electronic cigarette products.
- Qatar’s health ministry issues a circular reminding pharmacies of the country’s ban on e-cigarettes. The memo also claims that e-cigarettes are more dangerous than regular cigarettes.
November was a somewhat slow month with no studies coming out nor any scandals to speak of. The WHO met to discuss e-cigarettes and sought to have member nations ban the devices for a number of odd reasons.
- The former head of ASH (pictured above) speaks to the Ashtray Blog about harm reduction and e-cigarettes.
- The same ASH chief also submits a letter to WHO delegates asking them to use common sense and good judgement when discussing the topic of electronic cigarettes.
- The Financial publishes an analysis of the electronic cigarette industry. In that analysis, it’s noted that Euromonitor estimates the industry to be worth 2 billion dollars.
- Euromonitor revives the 2011 statements made by the UK’s nudge unit encouraging the use of electronic cigarettes in place of tobacco cigarettes to improve health outcomes in that country.
Normally, December tends to be the silly season for e-cigarette industry news. Not so in 2012. The final month of the year brought some of the biggest stories of the entire year.
- The EU ratifies the Tobacco Products Directive virtually unchanged from the version under Dali’s leadership. e-Cigarettes containing over 4mg per ml will be banned unless they are approved as a medical device.
- British American Tobacco acquires CN Creative, the parent company of intellicig for an undisclosed amount. This is the second major big tobacco purchase of an e-cigarette company in 2012.
- A German study finds that passive vapor is possible with electronic cigarettes. Paul Bergen notes that it is likely not a major cause for concern.
- The FDA holds hearings about nicotine replacement therapies and new product innovation. The majority of speakers were tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarette proponents.
- Several media outlets take note of one e-cigarette manufacturer’s television commercials touting the ability to vape openly. Some reporters don’t understand why the commercials avoid touting health benefits.
2012 in conclusion
The past year was anything but dull. There were countless ups and downs for the e-cigarette industry. In many ways, 2012 was the year electronic cigarettes came into their own. 2013 promises to continue the trend. We won’t speculate here, but we asked 11 prominent members of the vaping community to do just that in our 2013 e-cigarette predictions article.