The cigarette-shaped Voke Inhaler marks a further move by one of the
world's biggest tobacco companies to defend its turf in a rapidly
changing market. Since it involves no heat, electronics or battery
it is not classified as an e-cigarette.
The uptake of e-cigarettes, which use battery-powered cartridges to
produce a nicotine-laced vapour, has rocketed in the past two years
and the market is now estimated to be worth $3 billion a year - but
there is fierce debate about the risks.
BAT, the world's second-biggest cigarette maker with brands like
Pall Mall and Lucky Strike, already sells a conventional e-cigarette
called Vype, which was promoted on British television this year in
the first TV adverts by a tobacco company in more than two decades.
The new Voke product was developed by Kind Consumer and the next
step will be to submit a variation to the licence granted by the
Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to
support full-scale commercialisation by BAT's nicotine substitute
division Nicoventures, the companies said on Friday.
Kevin Bridgman, chief medical officer at Nicoventures, said the
additional licence was needed to achieve automated manufacture and
the further regulatory step was likely to take some months.
Shares in BAT's partner Consort Medical, which has a manufacturing
contract for the product and whose Bespak unit already has
experience in inhalation devices from making asthma inhalers, rose
more than 5 percent on news of the MHRA green light.
For BAT, whose share price was little changed, the development of
Voke is part of a strategy of hedging its bets as its core tobacco
business declines in Western markets, where many consumers are
LOOKING TO OTHER MARKETS
Bridgman said he believes the new device will suit many people who
want to quit smoking but are still wary about e-cigarettes.
"The fact that it (Voke) has been licensed by the medicines
regulator provides the assurances around quality and safety that
many smokers are seeking,” he told Reuters.
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"I'm fairly confident that most e-cigarettes contain fewer toxins
than conventional cigarettes, but the trouble is that without
standards and without someone overseeing things then consumers can't
BAT is also looking at rolling out the Voke Inhaler in other
markets, although Bridgman declined to go into details.
The issue of potential risks from e-cigarettes was highlighted by
the World Health Organization last month, which called for stiff
regulation as well as bans on their indoor use, advertising and
sales to minors.
It remains to be seen how widely BAT's new product will be accepted
by consumers, since it offers a somewhat different experience to
e-cigarettes. Unlike an e-cigarette, the Voke does not produce a
visible vapour when inhaled, although it does reproduce other
elements of smoking, including a typical "throat catch".
Bridgman declined to say how much the new product would cost, citing
commercial considerations ahead of its launch, but said it would be
BAT hopes its Voke Inhaler will compete with both e-cigarettes and
nicotine-replacement therapies, such as gum and patches, as well as
Johnson & Johnson's existing Nicorette Inhalator, which is not a
(Editing by Paul Sandle and Greg Mahlich)
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