Photo: Malcolm Griffiths

    Regulators globally are becoming more understanding of what they expect next-generation tobacco products to accomplish. Regulators want manufacturers to demonstrate, on a product-specific basis, whether the vaping products are a benefit to combustible cigarette smokers. More importantly, manufacturers must ensure that vulnerable populations such as youth are not using these products.

    During the lunchtime GTNF panel “Science Driving Innovation,” one speaker also mentioned that manufacturers must be more conscious about the environmental impacts of vaping products too. The environment is a big issue in the minds of governments, regulators and society as a whole. The panelists agreed that vaping manufacturers should produce products that are environmentally sustainable.

    “Think about all the batteries that go to waste every time an e-cigarette is disposed of. What are we doing as an industry to address the fundamental questions that society and regulators are concerned about?” a panelist asked. “We need to start thinking about what views of science we need to really put our investments in [and start] focusing on going into the future.”

    Another major industry concern that should be addressed through innovation is youth initiation. One panelist said this topic should be a primary focus of scientific efforts relating to vaping products. Reduced-risk products must exist for adult smokers, so it’s imperative that the industry proactively addresses the underage use issue. “If we don’t, others will try to do it for us, and then collectively, we will all compromise the potential that [we are focusing on during the conference] today,” one panelist said. “It’s a critical balance. It’s important that we offer adult smokers an alternative, and we can also combat underage use. We can do both, and we must because there’s too much at stake if we don’t.”

    Another speaker discussed her company’s global retailer compliance monitoring program. The company sends thousands of “mystery shoppers” into U.S. retail outlets that sell its vaping products and collects data around whether the retailers are abiding by federal age verification laws and/or other local policies.

    “What we found is that retailers need help. There’s a lot going on in this world. We help them by providing information on how they’re performing, education and training, and we can also assist in changing their existing point-of-sale technology,” she said. “It can actually prompt the clerks to check ID when they’re selling an interesting new product. And it alleviates the mental burden on their end.”

    Another concern for the industry that can be addressed through innovation is improving nicotine delivery and satisfaction. That satisfaction delivered by products today is not enough to sustain the large number of people we want to see switching from cigarettes to electronic nicotine-delivery systems.

    “To achieve meaningful harm reduction, we need these products to appeal to and be affordable to most adult cigarette smokers. Which means those consumers would need to like the product and be able to afford the product,” a speaker said. “They need to be able to trust these products, and it requires a significant investment in innovation if you want to do it properly.”