So by simple back-of-the-envelope math, it's easy to see that larger corporate players stand to potentially benefit from the FDA's regulations. But are they deliberately poisoning the well? Maybe.
This theory's central bit of evidence is the fact that in 2014, RJ Reynolds, Altria, and Lorillard all submitted comments to the FDA suggesting that the agency should ban open-system mods -- the ones that vapers love, and that Big Tobacco's cig-alikes compete with. Pro-vape advocates say this is just the tip of the iceberg in Big Tobacco's war of attrition on the vaping industry. The financial burden, say pro-vape advocates, is now so high that tobacco corporations -- who have, putting it mildly, a bad track record of giving a shit about anyone, ever -- will be the only players in the space that'll be able to market products. "Big Tobacco is in place to take over the market," said Greg Conley, head of the American Vaping Association. "That's very bad news."
Big Pharma killed vaping
Alleged reason: Vaping endangered nicotine-replacement therapy and medical treatment revenues
Popularity within the vaping community: Medium
"You look at [anti-vaping tobacco-control organizations'] websites, and it says who their donors are. It's all the Big Pharmaceutical companies," Aaron Biebert told me. He's the director of A Billion Lives, a documentary about the various forces arrayed against the industry.
He's not wrong. The American Lung Association lists AstraZeneca and Pfizer as two of its major corporate partners; the American Cancer Society has Merck and Genentech; the American Heart Association, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer. So on, and so forth.
Some pro-vape advocates claim that the big drug companies (and the health insurance conglomerates, care providers, et al.) are leveraging this cozy financial relationship into a powerful anti-vape lobbying effort. The motive?
Cornering the nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) market. When you include vapor products, this category is estimated to reach around $20 billion globally by 2023. Without the boost of e-cigarettes' enormous growth, though, the category is "lacklustre" -- particularly in the US. That's partly due to America's decreased smoking rates, and partly to vaping. Thanks to the popularity of vapor products amongst smokers who have failed cessation efforts using offerings like the nicotine patch and gum (the efficacy of both is a source of some debate), or prescription drugs, the enormous cessation market is totally changing.
That's scary stuff for Big Pharma, enough so that it gave at least a million dollars in campaign donations to at least seven senators who supported the FDA's May 2016 decision. Then again, like Biebert opined, "this isn't even a conspiracy" -- it's just money in politics undermining our democratic process, same as it ever was.
The tobacco-control lobby killed vaping
Alleged reason: Organizations viewed vaping as tobacco use and therefore ideologically evil, and don't want to swallow their pride
Popularity within the vaping community: High
Some people view this as a conspiracy not of money, but of morality and vanity. Some pro-vapers accuse tobacco-control groups of being an obsessive, prideful, dogmatically driven community that doesn’t care about public health as much as it cares about being the good guys who eradicate tobacco and nicotine from society. "You have an ideology at work that says: 'it looks like smoke, it must be evil,'" opined Conley.