Saturday, 23 March 2013

E-cigarettes in The Economist

There are two superb articles in The Economist this week about e-cigarettes, including a leader near the beginning of the magazine. If you ever need to explain the e-cigarette issue to someone who knows little or nothing about the subject, the leader article—No smoke, so why the fire?—along with this Guardian article from January, are two great places to start.

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.



10 comments:

Smoking Hot said...

Perhaps you could tell P&O about the difference between smoking and vaping? They've banned e-cigs!

http://dickpuddlecote.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/e-cigs-banned-on-p-ferries-avoid.html

Colonel Shotover said...

We've pretty much lost the Economist to the soft left but it's still generally sound on drugs and intoxicants

Ken said...

In all fairness, the ASH briefing on e-cigs is good too. I was pleasantly surprised by it.

Ivan D said...

Ken has a point but what took ASH so long? Arnott has been quiet of late. I wonder if somebody has told her that lying in public on a regular basis really isn't helping?

Jonathan Bagley said...

Whatever ASH UK says, it wants ecigs regulated. Can you imagine the anti tobacco industry coming out in favour of cherry and vanilla flavoured liquid which is costing drug companies millions?

Good feature on a Wigan market ecig seller on last night's R5 business programme. Starts around 20.45.

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jessica robert said...

The total benefit which might be built up through the use of Electronic Cigarette could often be which this steam approaching from the merchandise isn't going to have a tar or it could be waste. Carbon monoxide smoking poses threat so as to just about all people today in close proximity to all this is definitely why many open public locations obtain their 'No Smoking' Prohibits.

Hiten Solanki said...

It depend on the individual itself. Some might see it as a "gateways" but some might find an electronic cigarette as a road to quitting smoking all together. An electronic Cigarette gives smokers a viable healthier alternative than having no alternative at all. It must be said but an electronic cigarette does have many benefits.

Donovan McDabb said...

I agree with "vaporizers", the heating of the wax has saved my lungs and I enjoy the variety of flavors and strengths. Other than the initial outlay (which was still under a hundred bucks) I am also saving money using a vaporizer for smoking.