Taxing e-cigarettes has always been a tricky business because increasing the price tag of each vaporizer or e-liquid bottle could have a devastating effect on business owners, the economy and on all people trying to make the switch from regular tobacco. But, according to ‘The Independent’ it seems one company has everything figured out, and if you are familiar with the ‘pay-per-view’ concept that many online or cable operators use to tax their subscribers when they wish to see the latest movies or TV shows, similarly tobacco giant Philip Morris patented a device which tracks every inhalation. If ever implemented, this technology could force electronic cigarette users to buy their e-liquid on a ‘pay as you puff’ subscription.
This proposal from the makers of the popular cigarette brand ‘Marlboro’ is based on the concept that each e-cigarette could connect to the internet, allowing users to ‘buy’ puffing time online, in daily, weekly or monthly subscriptions. While ‘buying time’ might sound like something out of a Sci-Fi movie, the first one crossing through my mind being Justin Timberlake’s ‘In Time’, this concept could definitely revolutionize the way we puff and at the same time start a different type of social uprising.
At the same time, this ‘on the grid’ digital functionality could also allow for the constant documentation and uploading of vaping behavior data – a concept that might just prove useful in the drive to kick the habit, as well as in clinical trials and long term health effects.
Nevertheless, without a doubt, the tobacco giant also identified the commercial promising of selling vaping ‘credits’. The patent submission states that an accompanying mobile application could monitor when a user is about to run out of its nicotine-based e-liquid or cartridges and automatically pre-order additional vaping supplies. Back in 2013, Philip Morris representatives declared that entry into the electronic cigarette market would be its ‘greatest growth opportunity’.
However, the sole idea of allowing the world’s largest tobacco company to keep track of the personal data of the millions of nicotine addicts in the U.S. alone immediately prompted serious privacy concerns. In a recent article on Atlantic’s website, associate editor Robinson Meyer warned: ‘When you connect some previously dumb object to the internet, it can be both hacked, and you can be tracked. Smart objects give you access to health data and let you share it easily with doctors; they also allow it to be stolen.’
In addition, the digital tracking of vaping habits might just pave the way for new tobacco taxes, as Mr Meyer further suggested: ‘Smoke too close to a public park? Monitors will detect your lit e-cigarette and auto-send a fine to your email address.’
Good or bad, this might be the future for all of us vapers and if we don’t act as a community and stop the implementation of such technologies someday we might just pay for each puff.