When we started in this area in 2013 its phenomenal growth was being threatened by an extraordinarily powerful alliance. At its heart were pharmaceutical companies which were seeing sharp falls in sales of their nicotine replacement therapies. Then there were tobacco control activists who feared that e-cigarettes would act as a gateway into smoking for children and renormalise the habit of smoking for adults. Other opponents included all 28 national health regulators of the European Union member states.
This alliance was united in demanding that e-cigarettes should be regulated as medicines – something which would have wiped every product off the market. This approach was backed by the European Commission’s SANCO department, the Parliament’s Rapporteur on the issue and the member states in the Council of Ministers. The nascent e-cigarette industry was facing its nemesis.
So our must win objective was a critical vote in the European Parliament in October 2013. We intensively lobbied MEPs and ran a media campaign which culminated in a front page headline in The Economist a week before the vote: “E-Cigarettes Don’t Stub Them Out”. Against all the odds Parliament voted down the Commission’s proposal for medicinal regulation. The Economist’s European Business Editor wrote to us that “your client must be very pleased with you.” They were.