E-cigarettes are the latest innovation in nicotine delivery products to fly the harm-reduction flag. They follow the massive failures of cigarette filters. Over many years, filters falsely convinced countless smokers that they were reducing their being exposed to harm and so could keep smoking.
We also had the lights and milds fiasco – which saw 80% of Australian smokers select those misleadingly labelled brands, in which the ACCC outlawed from 2005 being a consumer fraud.
In the process we saw reduced carcinogen brands and also asbestos filtered cigarettes.
There was massive publicity about harm reduction from filters and low tar, and massive consumer uptake, although not a blip in the incidence of tobacco caused disease in people who still smoked.
Due to harm-reduction arguments, countless smokers continued smoking who might otherwise have quit. The tobacco industry drove these arguments and was supported by many in public health who innocently thought these people were no-brainers. Nigel Gray, a huge of global tobacco control, later admitted that this decades-long, well-intentioned low-tar harm-reduction policy was a disaster.
Meanwhile, we continued with the core policies of trying to prevent uptake, encourage quit attempts and denormalise smoking via smoke-free policies to safeguard non-smokers. Together, these objectives have delivered Australia the best smoking prevalence on the planet.
For 35 years because the early 1980s, we now have seen continually falling incidence rates of tobacco-caused disease. Female cancer of the lung seems very likely to never reach even half the peak we saw in males. Awkwardly for many, Australia has turned into a world leader in lessening smoking without any mass cessation clinic network or major embrace of e cigarette review.
Today, demands are being created to rush in soft-touch regulation to allow e-cigarettes to get manufactured, flavoured, promoted and used virtually without restriction.
This really is all being carried out on the shoulders of your argument that insists that after half a century of tobacco control, there remain many smokers who can’t or don’t want to give up their nicotine dependence, which in a few years, sufficient evidence has accumulated to show that e-cigarettes are both benign and ideal for cessation.
But the “can’t quit” argument has received remarkably little critical interrogation. We understand that hundreds of an incredible number of often heavily dependent smokers have quit considering that the early 1960s, most without the assistance at all.
We know that today’s smokers smoke fewer cigarettes daily than anytime before, the opposite of what the hardening hypothesis would predict.
The needs of the “we don’t want to quit/we like nicotine” vaping activists for unregulated usage of e-cigarettes as well as make use of them without restrictions should be balanced against the hazards of what these demands might mean izzert population-wide progress toward the objective of keeping smoking heading south.
Comprehensive tobacco control is not just concerning the preferences of vapers. It is most importantly about continuing to starve the tobacco industry of the latest recruits and ensure that smoking is created history.
Whenever we think about e-cigarettes as a transformative genie in a bottle, we have to think very carefully before letting it out, because putting genies in their bottles is a lot more difficult than impulsively permitting them to out. Should they prove to be benevolent, all’s good. But if they bring false hopes while keeping many people smoking, we might be looking at the beginning of a third major false god of tobacco harm reduction.