Introduction There is growing concern about transnational tobacco corporations’ (TTCs) and other commercial actors’ involvement in e-cigarette policy development. Previous analyses suggest that TTCs used e-cigarette debates to demonstrate alignment with public health and re-gain policy influence. Less is known about the engagement of other types of commercial actors in e-cigarette policy debates.
Methods This paper is the first to empirically analyse commercial actors’ engagement in an e-cigarette policy consultation process and to examine their views on proposed regulation. It applies mixed methods, drawing on policy consultation submissions (n=32), semi-structured interviews (n=9) and a social network analysis of website links among 32 commercial actors.
Results The results show that commercial actors’ positions on e-cigarette regulation aligned with business interests. TTCs, independent e-cigarette manufacturers and other non-licensed commercial actors were opposed to most aspects of potential e-cigarette regulation (except for age of sale restrictions), whereas licensed commercial actors, including pharmaceutical companies, supported more stringent regulation. While collaboration was viewed as strategically important to gain policy influence, distinct commercial interests and concerns about TTC credibility led to strategic distancing and to collaboration being largely confined to sector boundaries. In addition to reiterating arguments employed by TTCs in previous regulatory debates, commercial actors focused on highlighting the technical complexity and harm reduction potential of e-cigarettes.
Conclusion Awareness of the various commercial interests and strategic positioning of commercial actors in e-cigarette policy should inform public health advocacy and policy development, including managing conflicts of interest in the context of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Article 5.3.
- electronic nicotine delivery devices
- harm reduction
- public policy
- tobacco industry
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Contributors The research project was conceived by HBW. SH and KES contributed to the more detailed research design. TI was the lead researcher, undertook the data collection and led on data analysis. All authors contributed to data analysis. TI conceived this paper and was the lead author, producing the first draft and overseeing all subsequent edits. SH, KES, CHB, MW and HBW all contributed to drafting and editing the paper. All authors have approved the submitted manuscript.
Funding This project was funded by a CRUK Tobacco Advisory Group Project Award C54625/A20494. SH, TI and CHB were part funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12017/15, MC_UU_12017/13) and the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health Directorates (SPHSU15) at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval The study obtained ethical approval from the University of Glasgow College of Social Sciences Ethics Committee for Non-Clinical Research Involving Human Subjects (application number: 400150145).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Consultation responses and documentary data are available online, https://www.gov.scot/publications/consultation-electronic-cigarettes-strengthening-tobacco-control-scotland/. Interview data are not available due to confidentiality issues/permission has not been granted by participants.
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