Tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems regulation

Emily Stone, Henry Marshall


The smoking of tobacco cigarettes by millions of people over the past 100 or more years has had devastating public health consequences around the world. In some countries, this has been mitigated by the introduction of multiple regulatory strategies that have taken decades to implement. But even in the countries with most success at tobacco cigarette regulation, some smokers find it very hard to quit and need better treatment. Electronic cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) have emerged in the last decade or so. Initially designed to help smokers quit and produced by small independent entities, ENDS have become big business, with major transnational tobacco companies competing hard for market share where, for example, in the United States, a single device came to dominate the market within a couple of years and where soaring uptake by adolescents reached levels high enough to alarm the FDA. No doubts remain about the damaging health consequences of tobacco cigarettes. Controversies persist about e-cigarettes—their efficacy, health impacts, development of addiction and whether or not they provide a “gateway” to tobacco cigarette smoking. The regulation of tobacco cigarettes falls under a global WHO treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC); over 180 countries are party to the FCTC. The regulation of ENDS has no such treaty, varies considerably around the world and in many countries remains completely untrammelled by specific directives. This paper will not discuss the evidence for or against the of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation (effectively discussed in this issue by Dr. Wallace) but aims to review the current state of tobacco regulation around the world, identify key differences in ENDS regulation, examine the impact of industry influence on public health policy and determine how the lessons of tobacco control should apply to ENDS.