E-cigarette smokers could be forced to “pay as you puff” after the tobacco giant Philip Morris patented a device which tracks every inhalation.
The Marlboro manufacturer’s proposal envisages an e-cigarette which can connect to the internet, allowing users to “buy” puffing time online, in daily, weekly or monthly chunks.
This digital functionality would also allow for the recording and uploading of smoking behaviour information – something which could prove useful in the drive to kick the habit, as well as in clinical trials.
However, Philip Morris also identified the commercial potential of selling smoking “credits”. The patent submission says an accompanying mobile app could monitor when a user is about to run short of nicotine-related products and “automatically pre-order additional smoking articles”. Last year Philip Morris said that entry into the e-cigarette market would be its “greatest growth opportunity”.
The prospect of allowing the world’s largest tobacco company to track the personal data of nicotine addicts prompted privacy concerns.
Writing for The Atlantic’s website, 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.”
Digital e-cigarette tracking could pave the way for new tobacco taxes, Mr Meyer suggested: “Smoke too close to a public park? Monitors will detect your lit e-cigarette and auto-send a fine to your email address.”
Philip Morris suggested that its proposition was an altruistic initiative, with the device also able to connect users with an “approved support-group internet site for assistance with smoking cessation.”
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