Voke ecigThe debate over the regulation of electronic cigarettes and whether they are safer than combustible cigarettes was refueled in August when the World Health Organization called for a general indoor ban over these devices and requested that sales to persons under the legal age of maturity should be restricted. However, on September 12, Kind Consumer made an announcement that it has secured a medical license for their novelty nicotine inhaler, an important step forward that might pave the way for other electronic cigarettes to be given licenses as medically-approved stop smoking alternative.

Voke is an electronic cigarette shaped Inhaler and represents a further move by one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies to defend its supremacy in a constantly changing market. Since it does not involve any heat, electronics or battery it is not classified as an e-cigarette.

According to Nicoventures (a company formed by British American Tobacco to develop substitute nicotine products) Voke has gained approval from the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to be prescribed by doctors and will become the unit’s first licensed product. The company is also looking for it to be available in stores, said Des Naughton, managing director. Industry experts say they expect the product to be launched in the first half of 2015.

The popularity of electronic cigarettes, which use battery-powered cartridges to produce a nicotine-laced breathable mist, has dramatically increased in the past two years and today the market is estimated to be worth $3.5 billion a year. However, there is an ongoing debate over the long-term health effects that these devices might produce since there is no scientific evidence to date.

British American is the world’s second-biggest tobacco manufacturer with brands such as Dunhill and Lucky Strike, and already boasts a conventional electronic cigarette called Vype. However, as opposed to Vype, Voke will be able to circumvent the indoor ban now that it licensed as a medical device. The device, based on usual asthma inhaler technology, administers a nicotine suspension via a breath-operated micro valve located in a cigarette-sized medical gizmo. It consists of a cigarette-sized stick in a box the size of a pack of 20 cigarettes, which also contains a pressurized canister containing 20 refills of pharmaceutical grade nicotine.

For British American Tobacco the development of Voke is part of a strategy strengthen its market share as its core tobacco business declines in Western countries, where many consumers are constantly quitting smoking.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said the following:

‘This new alternative to smoking, which will be on sale in coming months, will allow smokers to choose a product which meets the high standards of medicines regulation and could be provided on prescription to help them stop smoking. There are many electronic cigarettes already on the market that are popular with smokers who are trying to cut down or quit smoking, but none of them so far are licensed as medicines. It is our understanding that a large number of other companies are in discussion with the MHRA and we hope this gives them the confidence to follow the process through.’