A U.K. parliamentary panel will hold an inquiry to establish the health and economic impact of electronic cigarettes amid rapid adoption of the devices in the country.
The inquiry will seek to address gaps in the understanding of e-cigarettes and assess the suitability of current regulations for the devices, which about 3 million people in the U.K. use. The Science and Technology Committee will accept written submissions by Dec. 8.
“All disruptive technology challenges regulatory frameworks,” said Derek Yach, head of the nonprofit organization Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which is part-funded by Philip Morris International Inc. “E-cigarettes require a rethink of regulatory philosophy.” He spoke before the announcement of the inquiry.
Tobacco companies, including the U.K.’s British American Tobacco Plc and Imperial Brands Plc, are pouring billions of dollars into researching and marketing cigarette alternatives as the popularity of smoking dwindles across the developed world. Many in the public-health community remain wary of Big Tobacco’s involvement in developing safer products.
While e-cigarette sales have grown rapidly as consumers seek out healthier ways to get their nicotine hit, regulations are an obstacle to further growth. Some countries — including Australia, Brazil and Japan — have banned the sale of e-cigarettes altogether, while U.S. Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said e-cigarettes have an important role to play in the war on tobacco.
The U.K. inquiry will examine the effectiveness of regulation governing e-cigarette advertising and product safety, as well the potential impacts Brexit may have on regulation.
The U.K. has taken a relatively lenient regulatory approach thus far, which has paved the way for the country’s e-cigarette market to grow to 1.1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion), according to researcher Euromonitor. Thirty-nine percent of e-cigarette users in the U.K. are ex-smokers, according to consulting firm EY.
The U.K. inquiry will also examine the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking and whether they play a role in normalizing smoking.