Now that the TPD has been passed and we are entering into the implementation phase, what are some of the bigger e cig companies doing? What is their reaction to the new legislation?
Charlie Hamshaw-Thomas, the Director of Legal and Corporate Affairs for E Lites e cigarettes kindly agreed to be interviewed by us at Save e cigs, and answer some of our questions…
Katie: What are E Lites doing, if anything to challenge/change the outcome of the Tobacco Products Directive? Do you believe this can be done?
Charlie: I definitely think we can influence the eventual outcome. We should all acknowledge we played an important role, the industry and the consumers in changing what happened in Brussels, and I think we should acknowledge the change in position from all products being regulated as medicines to the possibility of a twin track approach.
We have heard very clearly that the UK government Department of Health has acknowledged a change in their position from a year /18 months ago.
I think we should be putting to one side for the moment, the question of challenges – be they legal or otherwise. I think that the mind set now should be working hard with Brussels and the UK Government in addressing the concerns that they have. I think those concerns reveal 3 things; the quality and safety of our products, so I think that driving forward on product standards is vital. They are concerned about how we advertise and market our products, so we are addressing that properly, and they are concerned about understanding more about the product constituents and ingredients, emissions and the effects of long-term use, so we should be working collaboratively on research.
As one very supportive MEP has said to me already, it is inevitable that Article 20 will be further refined going forward. We can’t be seen to be ‘wanting to have our cake and eat it’ and have to move away from being seen to be “ no we don’t want this, no we don’t want that” and instead to be saying “ look, we acknowledge where you are at, let’s now get the best possible outcome for the industry as a whole”.
Katie: Do you see Elites still in business after 2016?
This is an incredibly exciting business; it is a very very exciting time. We along with the other UK e cig businesses believe we are a UK success story. The continuing innovation coming forward is exciting. The genie is out the bottle with regards to what our product can do and I don’t think its going back into the bottle. I think it is incredibly exciting what lies ahead.
Katie : You are a very sports orientated company, how will this ban on advertising affect the sportsmen and women you sponsor?
Charlie: We were the first to enter that arena with the motorcars and the motorbikes, and the football clubs. The darts we were very excited about and we are delighted to see our peers follow; hopefully we got something right there. I think it’s important, but it hasn’t just been about sports, there’s more that we are doing, such as the O2 Arena in London where we are the official e cig partner, and then there are a number of other initiatives in the pipeline.
Our approach is all about self-belief, the power of self-belief and the importance of self-belief. It’s been the single most important thing in people making a switch and change in their behaviours. That fits really very neatly with our brand refresh that coincided with Michael Van Gerwen becoming the world darts champion. He is a fantastic ambassador for our brand. So the question of what will happen in 2 years time with advertising? I think we should just be working hard with all the regulators and government bodies.
Katie: What about paragraph 5 of Article 20?
Charlie: I think at the end of the day we all recognise that it’s a lot of nonsense what they are proposing. One product is so fantastic it is a medicine, and you can tell people about it, but the other product that is substantially the same, is so bad you can’t tell people about it? We know that is nonsense and we must all work hard to ensure common sense can prevail.
Let’s not forget the tobacco directive, in terms of tobacco products, is interpreted differently in different member states, and I think we should be working as hard as we can to make sure the regulators and governments understand the importance of consumers’ being aware of these products. And to that extent, all our efforts are on bringing the industry together. There is already circulating a voluntary code that we’ve been at the forefront of trying to persuade our peers to get behind as quickly as possible.
We shouldn’t be waiting until September of this year when a code emerges from CAP, we should be getting on with that now.
We must make sure that we as an industry are advertising in a responsible fashion. Some of the stuff that is out there is totally inappropriate, using sex appeal in a way people have done, glamourizing the use of e cigarettes in a way that could be criticised. We are our own worst enemy when we do that sort of stuff.
Katie: You have a limited product line, do you think this will help with implementation of the TPD should it come to that? Was this a deliberate business strategy?
Charlie: No, not at all. For Adrian Everett and Michael Ryan, the guys who started this business, the aim was always to have a product that replicated as closely as possible the smoking experience. While we may be criticised by some for our limited product range, it is a product that has proven to be extremely popular for smokers looking for a safer alternative for their cigarettes. We well acknowledge that there is a panoply of other products coming onto the market, and that is a very good and healthy sign. Continuing product improvement and innovation is in our dna and we will absolutely continue trying to ever improve our product, and that’s in terms of appeal to smokers, its performance, its delivery, its consistency, its convenience to use and brand experience. I think there is a place for all these different products that are out there on the market. Look how many tobacco products and brands are out there at the moment? There are hundreds. Why wouldn’t we be any different in our category?
We have a very flexible approach to things. I can’t predict what our product range will look like in time to come, but at the moment it is performing very well. Our three focuses as a business are making sure we have the leading products, making sure we have a leading brand that resonates with our consumers and making sure we are playing a leading role in shaping the regulatory environment. Regulation is one of the biggest hurdles as an industry we face, and we’ve got to be acting more like a responsible industry in helping governments, understanding their concerns and and working with them in implementing appropriate regulation and proper policy implementation.
Katie: You are very active within the media, appearing often in the press and the TV/Radio. You will be attending the Global Nicotine Forum – what are you hoping to achieve there and bring away with you?
Charlie: I think it is similar to what I said earlier, it’s important we’re shown to be a responsible voice in the industry, that we are a socially responsible industry, we are committed to working and engaging with stakeholders, we don’t believe in trying to be adversarial, we need to engage.
We all know there’s a hell of a lot of interested stakeholders. Governments, regulators, public health and tobacco control organisations, the media, the tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry, it’s enormous. We should be working collaboratively in understanding their concerns, and I’m sure like a lot of others we get a bit frustrated with some of the things we hear being said, but we personally think we should be rejoicing about the benefits of these products, what these products deliver and we should all be working collaboratively.
Obviously we recognise that the different stakeholders have their respective agendas and priorities, but without true collaboration and co-ordination are we are going to realize the enormous public health prize our products offer? The theme should be engagement, it shouldn’t be adversarial. We are delighted when some of these eminent scientists and tobacco nicotine addiction experts ask us to join in their conversations. We think it is critical to be in the debate.
Katie: As a founding member of ECITA, where would you like to see the Industry going over the next two years?
Charlie: The importance of ECITA was when the industry was in its very early stages; it was the first attempt at bringing the industry together. The most important role that ECITA has provided is the Industry Standard of Excellence, in certifying compliance on all our products with all the relevant regulations. But I think things have moved on a bit. Our Chairman Mike Ryan has recently stepped down as chairman of ECITA and rather than speaking through one trade association body (which few of the major e-cigarette companies are members of) we must ensure that the industry comes together on the key issues. We believe there are four – robust and enforceable Product Standards (to ensure high standards of product quality & safety), an Advertisng & Marketing Code (to ensure all advertising & marketing is responsible and targeted only at smokers), a +18 Sales Age Restriction and a Joint Industry and Public Health Funded Research Programme (to enhance knowledge about e-cigs, their constituents, emissions and our understanding of their long-term effects)..
Unfortunately there is a grave danger we continue to come over as a cottage industry or a disunited rabble and we need to change that. We have to be coming together collectively, be it the bigger companies, be it the smaller companies, the ones owned by the tobacco companies, the independents, the retailers, we should all be coming together as an industry on the points I have mentioned.
That more than anything is what we want to see happen.
We must all recognise that this is absolutely critical. People have gone off on their own agendas, groups have gone off on their own agendas, and we are slightly paying the price for this, but over the next couple of years we can really get our act in order.
Katie: Thank you Charlie, it has been great to talk with you, and great to hear such a positive and optimistic point of view. We very much hope the Industry will join together, as that way everybody – vapers, their families and friends and the industry will benefit.