E-cigarettes are definitely the latest innovation in nicotine delivery products to fly the harm-reduction flag. They follow the massive failures of cigarette filters. Over years, filters falsely convinced millions of smokers that they were reducing their exposure to harm and so could keep smoking.
We had the lights and milds fiasco – which saw 80% of Australian smokers select those misleadingly labelled brands, in which the ACCC outlawed from 2005 as a consumer fraud.
In the process we saw reduced carcinogen brands and even asbestos filtered cigarettes.
There is massive publicity about harm reduction from filters and low tar, and massive consumer uptake, but not a blip inside the incidence of tobacco caused disease in those that still smoked.
Thanks to harm-reduction arguments, countless smokers continued smoking who might otherwise have quit. The tobacco industry drove these arguments and was backed up by many in public areas health who innocently thought they were no-brainers. Nigel Gray, a giant of global tobacco control, later admitted that the decades-long, well-intentioned low-tar harm-reduction policy had been a disaster.
Meanwhile, we continued using the core policies of trying to stop uptake, encourage quit attempts and denormalise smoking via smoke-free policies to protect non-smokers. Together, these objectives have delivered Australia the lowest smoking prevalence on earth.
For 35 years because the early 1980s, we have now seen continually falling incidence rates of tobacco-caused disease. Female cancer of the lung seems prone to never reach even half the peak we saw in males. Awkwardly for some, Australia has developed into a world leader in cutting smoking with no mass cessation clinic network or major embrace of reviews electronic cigarette.
Today, demands are designed to rush in soft-touch regulation to allow e-cigarettes to be manufactured, flavoured, promoted and used virtually without restriction.
This really is all being done on the shoulders of an 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, and this within a couple of years, sufficient evidence has now accumulated to show that e-cigarettes both are benign and perfect for cessation.
However the “can’t quit” argument has received remarkably little critical interrogation. We know that hundreds of countless often heavily dependent smokers have quit since the early 1960s, most without any assistance at all.
We know that today’s smokers smoke fewer cigarettes daily than whenever you want in the past, exactly the complete opposite of exactly what the hardening hypothesis would predict.
The demands from the “we don’t desire to quit/we love nicotine” vaping activists for unregulated usage of e-cigarettes as well as make use of them without restrictions should be balanced against the perils of what these demands might mean izzert population-wide progress toward the goal of keeping smoking heading south.
Comprehensive tobacco control is not only about the preferences of vapers. It is most importantly about continuing to starve the tobacco industry of new recruits and make certain that smoking is created history.
When we think of e-cigarettes as being a transformative genie in a bottle, we have to think very carefully before allowing it to out, because putting genies way back in their bottles is a lot more difficult than impulsively permitting them to out. Should they turn out to be benevolent, all’s good. But when they bring false hopes and keep many people smoking, we may be studying the beginning of any third major false god of tobacco harm reduction.