Kind Consumer Limited

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Kind Consumer was a British entrepreneurial healthcare company founded in 2006 by Alex Hearn, which ceased operations in 2020.

The company specialised in ‘respiratory drug delivery and tobacco harm reduction’, and its lead product was a licensed nicotine inhaler called Voke.1

From 2010 to 2017 the company had a distribution agreement for Voke with British American Tobacco (BAT).


In 2008, Kind Consumer developed the first prototype of a ‘clean medicinal nicotine inhalation device’ which was later named Voke (see image 1).2

The product attracted investment from former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, former Sainsbury’s CEO Sir Peter Davis, and financier Jon Moulton.3 Leahy was also the company’s Strategic Advisor, at least until 2018.4

In September 2014, Voke was licensed by the British Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) as a medicine.5

Image 1: Kind Consumer’s nicotine inhaler Voke

Relationship with the Tobacco Industry

Distribution Agreement with British American Tobacco

From 2010 to 2017, Kind Consumer was in a distribution agreement to commercialise Voke with British American Tobacco (BAT).36

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.”7 In BAT’s 2013 Sustainability Report, the company’s then 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”.8

When Voke obtained its medicine licence in 2014, Deborah Arnott, CEO of health advocacy Action on Smoking and Health, told British newspaper The Independent:9 “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”.10
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”.11

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.

Voke Re-Launched

Despite BAT’s withdrawal, Kind Consumer’s stated goal was to bring Voke onto the UK market in 2019.1012

The UK launch was announced on 6 November 2019.13 A press release described Voke as a product licensed by the National Health Service (NHS), and designed for smoking cessation:

“Voke uses advanced Vapourless Valve Technology (VVT) to deliver a low dose of nicotine for rapid craving relief”.13

The company stated that Voke was “not an e-cigarette and has no electronics, batteries, heat or vapour”.13 The product was available on the Voke website from 6 November 2019.

Company Closed Down

Although the company had a new board of directors and links to investment funds, it failed to raise enough financial capital and it closed at the end of 2020.1415 Its remaining assets were sold to OBG Consumer Scientific(a subsidiary of a pharmaceutical company Pharmaserve) for £UK1.6 million.16

TobaccoTactic Resources

Relevant Link

Kind Consumer website

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  1. Kind Consumer, Company, company website, undated, accessed June 2017
  2. Kind Consumer, Company History Infographic, company website, undated, accessed June 2017
  3. abR. Jacobs, C. Barrett, Former Tesco chief puts money into Nicotine, Financial Times, 1 June 2011 (behind paywall)
  4. Kind Consumer, Sir Terry Leahy, company website, undated, archived 24 June 2018
  5. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, e Voke 10mg Electronic Inhaler PL 42601/0003 e-Voke 15mg Electronic Inhaler PL 42601/0004 (Nicotine) UKPAR Nicovations Limited, last updated November 2015, accessed June 2017
  6. R. Jacobs, Pursuits of a safer cigarette gathers pace, Financial Times, 1 June 2011 (behind paywall)
  7. Nicoventures, What is Nicoventures, archived 23 July 2017, accessed February 2018
  8. British American Tobacco. A focus on harm reduction: Why it matters. Sustainability Focus Report 2013
  9. C.Cooper, Nicotine inhaler is first device of its kind to be licensed as medicine in Britain, The Independent, 12 September 2014, accessed February 2018
  10. abP. Triniman, Email subject: Voke 0.45mg Nicotine Inhaler, dated 15 February 2018 14:11. Kind Consumer
  11. V. Allen, B. Spencer, NHS plan to prescribe e-cigarettes goes up in smoke after the only device licences for medical use if aced, The Daily Mail, 5 February 2018, accessed November 2019
  12. Latest News, Kind Consumer website, undated, accessed June 2019
  13. abcSmokers Offered Fresh Hope With the UK Launch of VOKE, PR Newswire, 6 November 2019, accessed November 2019
  14. M. Kleinman, Woodford-backed nicotine inhaler Voke races to avoid going up in smoke, Sky News, 5 November 2020, accessed July 2021
  15. A. Ralph, How hopes for Kind Consumer’s alternative to cigarettes went up in smoke, The Times, 11 January 2021, accessed July 2021 (behind paywall)
  16. Kind Consumer Collapses, Company Rescue, 9 December 2020, accessed July 2021