Another technical and regulatory chase for electronic cigarettes


Are e-cigarettes cigarettes? At first glance, this question may seem like a “white horse is not a horse” as pure sophistry, but when you think about it, it’s actually a serious question.

First of all, in terms of appearance, in addition to the early generation of electronic cigarettes that deliberately imitated the appearance of cigarettes, the current popular electronic cigarettes are very different from traditional cigarettes in appearance. Yes, hammer-like, flying saucer-like, and most of them look like novel electronic toys that have nothing to do with traditional cigarettes.


From the perspective of content and composition, electronic cigarettes use liquid cartridges, which contain propylene glycol, glycerin, flavoring agents and nicotine. Only nicotine is the same as traditional cigarettes, but there is another type of electronic cigarette that does not contain nicotine and wins purely by flavor.


From the point of view of the method of use, the common point is that it is inhaled into the lungs, but the specific methods are completely different. Traditional cigarettes are burned, while electronic cigarettes are atomized.


All in all, electronic cigarettes and traditional cigarettes may only have “inhalation of nicotine into the lungs” in common. So, can we say that cola, which has the common denominator of “drinking caffeine into the stomach”, is also tea? If “Coke is not tea”, then why “electronic cigarette is cigarette”?


There are indeed many people who support the stance of “e-cigarettes are not cigarettes”, not for philosophical considerations such as the argument of name and reality, but for making money. At a time when e-cigarettes are in the ascendant, manufacturers often deliberately exploit gaps in the definition to allow advertising and sales of e-cigarettes to bypass traditional tobacco bans, allow e-cigarettes to be sold in non-smoking areas, or target traditionally banned smoking. sale to children and to try to circumvent additional government taxes on the tobacco industry. For traditional smokers, e-cigarettes are often defined as drugs to assist smoking cessation and are widely marketed.


The “Tobacco Monopoly Law” formulated by my country in 1991 obviously failed to include electronic cigarettes. Flue-cured tobacco leaves, tobacco leaves, cigarette paper, filter rods, tobacco tow, and tobacco-specific machinery.” And whether there are other tobacco products other than “cigarettes, cigars, cut tobacco, red-cured tobacco leaves”, and how to identify them, the law not involved.


Therefore, in actual promotion, for the sake of interests, merchants sometimes emphasize that e-cigarettes are cigarettes, and sometimes emphasize their identity as non-smokers. This ambiguity in positioning is precisely what has been criticized for e-cigarettes. Cigarettes seem to be less toxic than traditional cigarettes, but they have greatly expanded their audience. Many young people and even children who would not have been exposed to tobacco have joined the army of smokers, and a considerable number of them are more likely to try cigarettes , cannabis and other addictive consumer products. In addition, some people who might have been looking for more effective ways to quit smoking are more likely to enter the new pit, but many people end up using both the old and the new, and smoking more.


Governments of various countries have responded one after another, and successively issued standards and regulations related to e-cigarettes. It is expected that my country will soon release e-cigarette standards. However, even if the new standard is introduced, it may not be able to solve the positioning problem of electronic cigarettes once and for all, because the electronic cigarette industry itself is still changing rapidly and has not yet matured and finalized.


Judging from the history of technology development, the introduction of new standards and regulations always lags behind the replacement of new technologies. Especially when new technologies have just become popular, developers are still making their own tricks, and the development routes are full of tricks, and it is even more difficult to establish a once-and-for-all standard. The standard has just been formulated, and perhaps a new generation of products will iterate on the existing standard. In many cases, the development of standards helps first movers to consolidate their market positions, but may hinder the creativity of technological development.


In fact, it is a common occurrence in this era for new technologies to break through old regulations and develop freely. A typical example is the rise of e-commerce represented by Taobao. In the early stage of development, small sellers were able to avoid various taxation and management systems for traditional stores by taking advantage of the ambiguous identity of “online stores are not stores”. developed rapidly. The various management methods for brick-and-mortar stores are indeed outdated and need to be reformulated. But if the new regulations are made too fast and too strict, it may stifle the vigorous development of e-commerce.


Emerging things such as electronic communication, mobile payment, online literature, online live broadcast, etc. If the post office manages e-mail, the telephone bureau manages QQ, the bank manages Alipay, and the TV station manages online live broadcasts, it may be difficult for these emerging things to fully develop their possibilities. Taking advantage of the lag of regulations and “taking advantage of the lack of attention of supervision” constitutes the golden time for the development of new technologies.


But norms always have to keep pace with the times. On the one hand, many new things will bring many new social problems in the process of barbaric development, and on the other hand, any new technology is not necessarily a good thing. Online shops and online chats may be allowed to be appropriated, but it is debatable whether online gambling, online loans, etc. should be allowed to develop savagely.


The ever-changing technological age places new demands on our institutional culture, and we must maintain the right tension between killing the germs across the board and letting them go completely. The formulation of standards and laws, of course, requires rigor and accuracy, but it has to leave appropriate room for technological change.


In the face of technological development, we need to go beyond the ready-made, either-or thinking mode, and cannot simply regard a noun as a collection of certain fixed things (such as cigarettes = cigarettes, cigars, shredded tobacco) , red-cured tobacco leaves, a collection of four products), but to look at things from a historical perspective. From pipes and bongs to cigars and cigarettes, the shape of tobacco products and their cultural significance are constantly changing, and we cannot determine the boundaries of “smoke” once and for all. But at the same time, we must maintain the stability of standards and regulations, and adhere to the “consistency” of legislative principles. For example, no matter what tobacco is, what is it that motivates us to make laws specifically to restrict tobacco marketing?


In this regard, the “Tobacco Monopoly Law” also states that, before the definition in Article 2, Article 1 of the law clearly explains the legislative principles: “In order to implement the management of tobacco monopoly, the production of tobacco monopoly products shall be organized in a planned way. This Law is enacted to improve the quality of tobacco products, safeguard the interests of consumers, and ensure national fiscal revenue.”


However, the above statement obviously avoids the important points, because the purposes such as “improving the quality of a certain product, safeguarding the interests of consumers, and ensuring the national fiscal revenue” are applicable to any kind of commodity. This opening statement does not address the uniqueness of “tobacco” candidly and unequivocally – why do we have special restrictions on tobacco?

In fact, we all know that it is the toxic and addictive properties of tobacco that make it a very special commodity, so we need to be extra careful to limit it compared to general commodities. Only by clarifying the principles of legislation can we take an appropriate attitude in the face of new things. For example, in the case of electronic cigarettes, the question of whether they should be compared with traditional cigarettes does not lie in its physical form or production method, but in its toxic and addictive properties. Much of the controversy surrounding e-cigarettes does focus on these two issues.


The formulation of laws and regulations requires strictness and accuracy, but if the definition of ready-made objects such as cigarettes and cut tobacco is extremely precise, but when the legislative principles are explained, they are vague and only talk about empty words and clichés.

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