When the sale of e-cigarettes started in Spain, it was an extremely popular product and shops popped up all over the country. However, the tides have turned and sales of the once popular product have decreased dramatically. Now 95 percent of the shops selling the product have closed.
The media statement comes after several emails, leaked from the top pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, have shown the company was lobbying for harsher regulation of e-cigarettes. As the product has been advertised as a way to stop smoking, the company wants them regulated as medicines. E-cigarettes would then have to compete with other products used for quitting smoking, such as nicotine gum.
While those regulations are not yet in force, Spain has banned the use of the controversial product in public places, including hospitals and schools, due to their possible and so far unknown health risks.
However, it is apparently not only the interference by the pharmaceutical companies that is causing problems. According to a spokesperson from ANCE when the products were first released, there were far too many shops opened in Spain in too short a time. For example, one Italian man who moved to Spain to open an e-cigarette store was shocked at seeing three similar stores on the same Madrid street, within a distance of around 200 meters. He told El Confidencial that it was madness, saying, "As soon as I saw it I knew that things would turn to shit for most of us," he said.
He added that initially there was a boom for the product in Spain. People believed it was like a magic wand allowing them to give up smoking, but this wasn't the case. At first it seemed the market was virtually infinite and that there would be plenty of business to go around. He also said that many of their clients have now gone back to normal tobacco, although no one is ready to admit it.
Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol also had a surfeit of e-cigarette stores, with three or four opening within a radius of a couple of blocks in a short time. It wasn't long before most of these stores also closed.
Rodríguez from ANCE mentioned that another factor was that many of the staff in the stores were inexperienced and didn't know how to advise their clients on the use of the products.
Around the world, governments have been having problems deciding how to regulate e-cigarettes. With supporters claiming they are a safer alternative to normal cigarettes and a great tool in helping smokers to quit, the World Health Organization disagrees, advising against them as their potential health risks "remain undetermined."
According to ANCE, around 900,000 Spaniards use e-cigarettes on a regular basis, although there are no official statistics available. Under the strict anti-smoking laws in Spain, among the strongest in Europe, smoking is banned in restaurants, bars, discos, airports and casinos and is also banned outside children's playgrounds and hospitals. In the case of restaurants and bars that have outdoor terraces, clients are often allowed to smoke there.