In the debate on tobacco regulation, one question persists : why do some countries restrict the choice of electronic cigarettes and liquid flavours, or even ban vaping altogether, while traditional cigarettes remain legal worldwide ?

The answers to this complex question are often linked to economic and political interests. The tobacco and pharmaceutical industries play a central role in this debate.

Tobacco industry

Traditional cigarette manufacturers have a clear financial interest in maintaining their market share and protecting their profits.

If e-cigarettes become too popular and reduce demand for traditional cigarettes, this could threaten their commercial activities.

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Pharmaceutical industry

Companies producing smoking cessation products, such as patches and gum, could also have an economic interest in restricting e-cigarettes.

If e-cigarettes become a more popular alternative to quit smoking, this could reduce demand for their products.

Tax revenues

Governments collect substantial taxes on the sale of traditional cigarettes, representing a significant source of revenue. 

If e-cigarettes become a more popular alternative, this could reduce tax revenues from tobacco sales.

Economic uncertainties

Economic concerns about the long-term impact of e-cigarettes on various sectors, including agriculture (tobacco growing), manufacturing and retailing, may also influence regulations. Some economic players fear the disruption that rapid changes in tobacco consumption habits could cause.

Political influence

Lobbyists associated with the tobacco industry and other related industries often exert pressure on political decision-makers to influence tobacco regulations, emphasising the preservation of their economic interests.


United Kingdom

Last October, the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, announced his intention to extend the ban on cigarette sales so that the United Kingdom can gradually become a smoke-free country.

Currently, the legal age to buy cigarettes in the UK is 18, and the government plans to increase this legal age by one year each year.

In 2007, the UK government already raised the legal age to sell tobacco from 16 to 18, which led to a 30% reduction in smoking prevalence among 16 and 17 year olds, according to statistics provided by Mr Sunak's office.

If this law was passed by 2027, it would mean, according to Rishi Sunak's statements, that a 14-year-old today would never be able to legally buy cigarettes. These changes could potentially lead to the emergence of a "smoke-free generation".

If Parliament approves the proposal, the legal change will only apply in England, not in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

New Zealand

In 2022, the country passed ground-breaking legislation that introduced an increasingly higher minimum smoking age to prevent those born after 2008 from ever being able to legally purchase cigarettes.

The law was designed to prevent thousands of smoking-related deaths and save the health system billions of dollars.

The legislation, which inspired the UK's plan to eliminate smoking for future generations, was due to be implemented in July 2024.

However, New Zealand's new Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon, has decided to remove the restrictions before March 2024, using the revenue from cigarette sales to fund tax cuts...


Although it may seem paradoxical from a public health point of view, economic and political interests can influence decisions on tobacco regulation, sometimes leading to restrictions on electronic cigarettes while allowing the ongoing sale of traditional cigarettes.