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 many years, filters falsely convinced millions of smokers that they were reducing their exposure to harm and so could keep smoking.
We also had the lights and milds fiasco – which saw 80% of Australian smokers select those misleadingly labelled brands, that the ACCC outlawed from 2005 as being a consumer fraud.
Along the way we saw reduced carcinogen brands and also asbestos filtered cigarettes.
There is massive publicity about harm reduction from filters and low tar, and massive consumer uptake, but not a blip in 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 supported 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 was a disaster.
Meanwhile, we continued using the core policies of attempting to stop uptake, encourage quit attempts and denormalise smoking via smoke-free policies to guard non-smokers. Together, these objectives have delivered Australia the lowest smoking prevalence on the planet.
For 35 years because the early 1980s, we have 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 a few, Australia has become a world leader in lessening smoking without the mass cessation clinic network or major embrace of electronic cigarette consumer reviews.
Today, demands are now being created to rush in soft-touch regulation to allow e-cigarettes to be manufactured, flavoured, promoted and used virtually without restriction.
This 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 few years, sufficient evidence has accumulated to demonstrate that e-cigarettes are generally benign and perfect for cessation.
Nevertheless the “can’t quit” argument has received remarkably little critical interrogation. We realize that numerous an incredible number of often heavily dependent smokers have quit considering that the early 1960s, most with no assistance whatsoever.
We know that today’s smokers smoke fewer cigarettes each day than at any time previously, exactly the complete opposite of what the hardening hypothesis would predict.
The needs in the “we don’t wish to quit/we love nicotine” vaping activists for unregulated access to e-cigarettes and also to use them without restrictions should be balanced from the hazards of what these demands might mean izzert population-wide progress toward the goal of keeping smoking heading south.
Comprehensive tobacco control is not just concerning the preferences of vapers. It is above all about continuing to starve the tobacco industry of new recruits and make certain that smoking is produced history.
When we consider e-cigarettes being a transformative genie in a bottle, we have to think very carefully before letting it out, because putting genies way back in their bottles is much more difficult than impulsively allowing them to out. If they prove to be benevolent, all’s good. But if they bring false hopes whilst keeping many people smoking, we may be looking at the early days of a third major false god of tobacco harm reduction.