There have been two great articles in the last week on the rise of electronic cigarettes, a revolutionary way to significantly reduce the harm associated with smoking, and continued efforts by governments to ban them.
First, the Economist notes that:
SOME inventions are so simple, you have to wonder why no one has come up with them before. One such is the electronic cigarette. Smoking tobacco is the most dangerous voluntary activity in the world. More than 5m people die every year of the consequences. That is one death in ten. People smoke because they value the pleasure they get from nicotine in tobacco over the long-term certainty that their health will be damaged. So it seems rational to welcome a device that separates the dangerous part of smoking (the tar, carbon monoxide and smoke released by the process of combustion) from the nicotine. And that is what an e-cigarette does. It uses electricity from a small battery to vaporise a nicotine-containing solution, so that the user can breathe it in.
E-cigarettes do not just save the lives of smokers: they bring other benefits too. Unlike cigarettes, they do not damage the health of bystanders. They do not even smell that bad, so there is no public nuisance, let alone hazard, and thus no reason to ban their use in public places. Pubs and restaurants should welcome them with open arms…
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.
Read the whole thing here.
Secondly, the Guardian notes that:
If electronic cigarettes became a socially acceptable norm, lung cancer and emphysema rates would plummet. The trouble is that smokers have been demonised medically and morally: not merely bad for public health, but bad, full stop. E-cigs neatly separate the rational, research-backed concern for the health consequences of tobacco from a purely cultural revulsion for a “filthy” habit marking you as evil.
For anti-smoking fanatics, e-cigs must be enraging. They can’t clamber on to that handsome high horse, because what’s to get upset about? Those plastic vapour sticks aren’t gunking anyone’s lungs or even stinking up the drapes. And those dreadful cheats seem to be enjoying themselves! They’re getting away with something horrid scot-free! It isn’t fair! They should get cancer! Imagine the dizzy swoon of indignation deprivation: what’s upsetting is there’s nothing to get upset about.
You want real evil? What’s truly evil is attempting to deny people addicted to a profoundly damaging substance the opportunity to transfer that addiction to a product most medical professionals rate as 99% harmless.