The E-Cigarette Industry: The Most Unfairly Treated Industry In History
When you think about global industries it’s quite rare that you can say you helped to build and shape one. But that’s exactly what we’re all doing, albeit with a lot of unwarranted barriers.
When most of the major global industries started to form – automotive, which began in the 1890’s; steel, which began in the late 1850’s; pharmaceutical, which began in the mid 1800’s; and tobacco, which basically began in the mid 1800’s (even though cigarettes have been around in some form since the 9th century) – there was nowhere near the level of governmental regulation or red tape that we see today.
In many instances, a number of major industries went nearly unregulated and ungoverned for quite some time as manufacturers were the ones in charge of what they were producing, how they were producing it, and how they were allowed to offer it to the public.
By the time regulation and structure caught up, the industries were already moulded to benefit the corporations, which had already accrued substantial amounts of money, public stature, and political influence.
It’s a little different now.
Creating a new industry these days comes with greatly heightened roadblocks from day one, but if you’re breaking new ground in an area that is not already secured under a strict set of regulations and laws there’s still that little opportunity to play by your own rules until the government catches up, implements a few governing bodies and throws a rulebook at you.
Right? Well, not always.
One instance where this was the case was the social media industry. Social media networks first appeared in the form of Geocities back in 1994, and kicked off in 1997 when SixDegrees.com launched. SixDegrees.com allowed you to send messages and share bulletin board posts with friends, family members and acquaintances, and was built around the “six degrees of separation” concept. It was like Facebook, if someone made Facebook for a computer class assignment the night before – but if you look at other sites back in 1997 this was a pretty revolutionary concept.
Granted, the internet wasn’t the terrifyingly dark place it is today, but these social networks did have a form of ownership over their industry for quite some time, and it wasn’t until the emergence of far more sophisticated and globally-used platforms such as Friendster and MySpace that regulations started to come into play.
Which brings us to e-cigarettes.
The concept of an e-cigarette then sat dormant for nearly 40 years, until Hon Lik registered his own patent for a cig-a-like in 2003 (introducing them to the Chinese domestic market in 2004). Although these were wildly popular throughout China, they didn’t reach any international market until 2007, when British entrepreneurs Umer and Tariq Sheikh invented the cartomizer under their brand Gamucci and launched it domestically in the UK in 2008, around the same time e-cigarettes slowly started to trickle out internationally.
Within just a few months, the World Health Organisation had publicly slammed e-cigarettes as illegitimate and ineffective tools for quitting smoking, and Turkey’s Health Ministry had suspended the sale of any e-cigarette products.
In response to this, Health New Zealand conducted the first detailed quantitative analysis on e-cigarettes, concluding that they were rated up to 1,000 times less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
2 months later, the FDA in the United States added e-cigarettes to an Import Alert and directed U.S. customs to reject the entry of any e-cigarette products, Canada banned them entirely, and Hong Kong banned them entirely (with the threat of a HK$100,000 fine and up to two years in prison).
In the next few years, e-cigarettes continued to be hit with strict bans all around the world, without even a hint of being fairly treated or regulated, despite the in-depth analysis from New Zealand proving their vast health benefits over traditional cigarettes.
Since e-cigarettes emerged internationally in 2008, were thrown under the bus by multiple countries and health organisations, right up until today when e-cigarettes are finally starting to be officially recognised as a legitimate quitting tool, approximately 70 million people have died from smoking related illnesses.
While e-cigarettes are becoming fairly regulated and approved in certain areas of the world now – even being heavily promoted by the NHS and Public Health England in the UK – there are still countless areas that are not only standing firmly behind their bans, they’re continuing to implement new bans with harsher penalties.
And each year, 7 million more people die from smoking.