However, that number could grow as greater regulation looms, such as plain packagingproposals that would remove brands from cigarette packs.Last year British American Tobacco established Nicoventures, a company division devotedto cigarette alternatives. It plans to launch a nicotine inhaler by the end of 2014.“With both increased regulation and increased demonisation of smoking, you need to givesmokers safer choices,” says David O’Reilly, BAT’s group scientific director.“The vision is for another product which can compete with enjoyment of smokingcigarettes, and e-cigarettes are closest thing on market that meets those needs.” A private company called Kind Consumer, backed by BAT and advised by Sir Terry Leahy, is seeking to raise £10m from private investors for research and development of acigarette substitute to launch around 2015.“Our aim is to give addicted smokers craving nicotine an alternative option to a cigarettes,”said Paul Triniman, Kind Comsumer’s chief executive. “If you can allow smokers to get thenicotine hit without tar, there would be a significant improvement on a harm-reduction basis whereby they can satisfy their craving without carcinogens and toxins.”E-cigarettes are almost entirely unregulated in the UK, are not subject to uniformstandards, and have been outlawed in countries including Australia, New Zealand, Braziland Canada.That has not stopped companies such as FTSE 100 company Imperial Tobacco taking anundisclosed stake in an e-cigarette company, or Japan Tobacco International signing anagreement to commercialise the nicotine “vaporisers” made by San Francisco-based Ploomabroad.“E-cigarettes are growing at a phenomenal rate because of cigarette restrictions .
. we’ve been monitoring that and we want to build our knowledge and understanding of theindustry,” says Alex Parsons, Imperial’s director of communications.Much of the UK’s e-cigarette market is geared towards smokers trying to give up. Thenicotine replacement therapy industry – which includes nicotine replacement chewing gumand patches – is worth some £150m a year.No e-cigarette has yet gained UK approval as a medicinal nicotine replacement therapy,although the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) isinvestigating the devices and is scheduled to report back next year. The US Food and Drug Administration has also examined the product.