Who could object? Quite a lot of people, it seems. Instead of embracing e-cigarettes, many health lobbyists are determined to stub them out. Some claim that e-cigarettes may act as “gateways” to the real thing. Others suggest that the flavourings sometimes added to the nicotine-bearing solution make e-cigarettes especially attractive to children—a sort of nicotine equivalent of “alcopop” drinks. But these objections seem to be driven by puritanism, not by reason. Some health lobbyists are so determined to prevent people doing anything that remotely resembles smoking—a process referred to as “denormalisation”—that they refuse to endorse a product that reproduces the pleasure of smoking without the harm.
In some places politicians and other busybodies are listening. Several countries (including Austria and New Zealand) restrict the sale of e-cigarettes, for example by classifying them as medical devices; others (Brazil and Singapore) ban them altogether. Some airlines, too, ban passengers from using e-cigarettes on their planes.
This is wrong. Those charged with improving public health should be promoting e-cigarettes, not discouraging their use. Of course, e-cigarettes should be regulated. Nicotine is an addictive drug, and should therefore be kept out of the hands of children. E-cigarettes should be sold only through licensed outlets, and to adults. It would also be a good idea to do some proper research on them. Nicotine is, after all, a poison (its real purpose is to stop insects eating tobacco plants), so there may be some residual risk to users. But nicotine poisoning is pretty low on the list of bad things that ordinary cigarettes are accused of. Some researchers reckon nicotine to be no more dangerous than caffeine, which coffee plants similarly employ as an insecticide.
The right approach is not to denormalise smoking, but to normalise e-smoking. Those who enjoy nicotine will be able to continue to use it, while everyone else will be spared both the public-health consequences of smoking and the nuisance of other people’s smoke. What’s not to like?
The other article—Vape ’em if you got ’em—isn't too shabby either. It looks at the e-cigarette as a challenge to the tobacco industry. It should never be forgotten that the zealots who call for over-regulation or prohibition of e-cigarettes are the unwittingly dupes of their arch-enemy.
Betting against an industry with addicts for customers carries obvious risks. But these are uncertain times for Big Tobacco. Electronic cigarettes, once dismissed as a novelty, now pose a serious threat... E-cigarette executives dream of relegating traditional cigarettes to the ashtray of history. But as they struggle with taxes, patents and red tape, they may come to envy Big Tobacco’s deep pockets. More deals are likely, thrashed out no doubt in vapour-filled rooms.
I have no commentary to add to these articles. I'm delighted to see e-cigarettes get some positive coverage in The World's Greatest Magazine (and I don't just say that because they liked my first book and described my second book was a "devastating critique". Honest.) I just wanted to bring them to your attention and also point you towards Clive Bates' discussion of them which, as usual, is very sound.