British American Tobacco has become the first major tobacco manufacturer to launch an electronic cigarette in the UK.
Launched this week, Vype is currently only available online but will be offered to mainstream retailers from September.
The Vype e-cigarette is priced £6.99 online and delivers approximately 130 puffs, according to BAT’s laboratory testing.
The launch follows BAT’s acquisition of UK technology business CN Creative in December. Vype uses a nicotine e-liquid that is made in the UK to current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) standards and contains only pharmaceutical grade nicotine.
It is currently made as a disposable product, although a rechargeable version is in development. As a tobacco company, BAT said it understands what smokers really want from the experience of an e-cigarette.
BAT also said the development of inhaled tobacco products, which includes e-cigarettes, is a natural extension of its approach to tobacco harm reduction, which has been evolving over a number of years.
Any products BAT sold had “to meet very strict criteria that also apply to all its supply chain partners”, said the company’s director for next-generation products Des Naughton. He added that it would not be using its tobacco sales network to distribute Vype, because it preferred to keep its tobacco and smoking alternative businesses separate.
Last month the UK government announced it was planning to regulate e-cigarettes as medicines by 2016. The EU is also currently pushing through legislation that would see the category regulated in this way.