Kind Consumer Limited
Kind Consumer is a British entrepreneurial healthcare company founded in 2006 by Alex Hearn.
The company specialises in ‘respiratory drug delivery and tobacco harm reduction’, and its lead product is a licensed nicotine inhaler called Voke.
In 2008, Kind Consumer developed the first prototype of a 'clean medicinal nicotine inhalation device' which was later named Voke (see image 1). The product attracted investment from former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, former Sainsbury’s CEO Sir Peter Davis, and financier Jon Moulton. Leahy is also the company’s Strategic Advisor.
In September 2014, Voke was licensed by the British Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a medicine.
Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
Distribution Agreement with British American Tobacco
At the time, BAT claimed that its agreement with Kind Consumer was part of its approach to tobacco harm reduction, and desire to offer adult smokers “a range of innovative regulatory approved nicotine products which will provide them with much of the experience they expect to get from a cigarette but without the real and serious health risks of smoking.”
In BAT’s 2013 Sustainability Report, the company’s CEO Nicandro Durante wrote: “We understand that people will be sceptical about our motivations and how seriously we take this. As well as the moral imperative it makes commercial sense for us to have a sustainable portfolio of products. Clearly, less risky tobacco and nicotine products must form part of that portfolio. And yes, we most definitely have a responsibility to work to reduce the risks of our products. Harm reduction is a crucial part of our future, with huge potential for business growth, while also benefiting public health”.
When Voke obtained its medicine licence in 2014, Deborah Arnott, CEO of health advocacy Action on Smoking and Health, told British newspaper The Independent: “There is an ethical dilemma and we’d much rather it wasn’t BAT that had the licence, but unfortunately when Kind Consumer were looking for investment, no-one else was interested”. Arnott added, “Medicine regulation is really important to ensure that products are of an appropriate standard”.
BAT “Never Really Interested in Prescription Products”
The agreement with BAT came to an end in January 2017, with Kind Consumer accusing BAT of “fading enthusiasm for Voke in the wake of lower regulatory hurdles for EC/Vapour products”.
BAT’s loss of interest in pursuing regulatory approved nicotine products was confirmed by David O’Reilly, BAT’s Scientific Director, when he was quoted in The Daily Mail in February 2018 saying:
- “We were never really interested in prescription products. At that time, the medicinal route was the only route to market, but smokers do not see themselves as patients. Now there are additional routes to market, and we are devoting significant time and resources to extending consumer choice and delivering even better next-generation tobacco and nicotine products”.
For more information, on BAT’s ‘other routes to market’ go to E-Cigarettes: British American Tobacco.
It appears then, that pursuing licensed nicotine products no longer made ‘commercial sense’ to BAT, despite the assertions of ASH that regulation ensures appropriate standards.
In September 2018, Kingsley Wheaton, BAT’s Managing Director Next Generation Products, reported that BAT’s e-cigarette business in the UK had become more profitable than its conventional cigarette business. According to Wheaton, BAT held 42% of the UK e-cigarette retail value market share, which generated a £95 annual margin per vaper, compared to the £78 margin generated by a conventional smoker.
Despite BAT’s withdrawal, Kind Consumer’s goal is to bring Voke on the UK market in 2019.
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- K. Wheaton. Next Generation Products. BAT Investor Day, September 217