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 years, filters falsely convinced an incredible number of smokers that they were reducing their being exposed 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, that the ACCC outlawed from 2005 as a consumer fraud.
In the process we saw reduced carcinogen brands and even asbestos filtered cigarettes.
There was 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 people who still smoked.
Thanks 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 areas 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 all the core policies of attempting to avoid uptake, encourage quit attempts and denormalise smoking via smoke-free policies to safeguard non-smokers. Together, these objectives have delivered Australia the cheapest smoking prevalence in the world.
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 become a world leader in lessening smoking with no mass cessation clinic network or major embrace of e cigarette reviews.
Today, demands are created to rush in soft-touch regulation to allow e-cigarettes to be manufactured, flavoured, promoted and used virtually without restriction.
This can be all being done on the shoulders of the argument that insists that after fifty years of tobacco control, there remain many smokers who can’t or don’t want to give up their nicotine dependence, and that in just a couple of years, sufficient evidence has now accumulated to demonstrate that e-cigarettes are both benign and ideal for cessation.
But the “can’t quit” argument has received remarkably little critical interrogation. We know that countless countless often heavily dependent smokers have quit because the early 1960s, most without the assistance in any way.
We know that today’s smokers smoke fewer cigarettes daily than anytime in the past, precisely the complete opposite of exactly what the hardening hypothesis would predict.
The requirements in the “we don’t wish to quit/we like nicotine” vaping activists for unregulated use of e-cigarettes and also to use them without restrictions should be balanced from the risks of what these demands might mean izzert population-wide progress toward the aim of keeping smoking heading south.
Comprehensive tobacco control is not just regarding the preferences of vapers. It really is most significantly about continuing to starve the tobacco industry of brand new recruits and make sure that smoking is created history.
When we think of e-cigarettes as being a transformative genie in a bottle, we need to think thoroughly before allowing it to out, because putting genies way back in their bottles is much more difficult than impulsively permitting them to out. When they turn out to be benevolent, all’s good. But when they bring false hopes while keeping many people smoking, we might be exploring the beginning of a third major false god of tobacco harm reduction.