E-cigarettes are the latest development in nicotine delivery products to fly the harm-reduction flag. They follow the massive failures of cigarette filters. Over years, filters falsely reassured an incredible number 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, which the ACCC outlawed from 2005 as a consumer fraud.
As you go along we saw reduced carcinogen brands as well as asbestos filtered cigarettes.
There was massive publicity about harm reduction from filters and low tar, and massive consumer uptake, however, not a blip within the incidence of tobacco caused disease in people who still smoked.
Because of 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 places health who innocently thought these people were no-brainers. Nigel Gray, a giant of global tobacco control, later admitted the decades-long, well-intentioned low-tar harm-reduction policy was a disaster.
Meanwhile, we continued with all the core policies of trying to prevent uptake, encourage quit attempts and denormalise smoking via smoke-free policies to guard non-smokers. Together, these objectives have delivered Australia the cheapest smoking prevalence in the world.
For 35 years considering that the early 1980s, we now 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 developed into a world leader in reducing smoking with no mass cessation clinic network or major embrace of e cig reviews.
Today, demands are being created to rush in soft-touch regulation to enable e-cigarettes to be manufactured, flavoured, promoted and used virtually without restriction.
This really is all being done on the shoulders of the argument that insists that after 50 years of tobacco control, there remain many smokers who can’t or don’t want to quit their nicotine dependence, and this in a few years, sufficient evidence has accumulated to exhibit that e-cigarettes are generally benign and great for cessation.
Nevertheless the “can’t quit” argument has received remarkably little critical interrogation. We know that hundreds of millions of often heavily dependent smokers have quit considering that the early 1960s, most with no assistance in any way.
We know that today’s smokers smoke fewer cigarettes each day than whenever you want before, precisely the opposite of exactly what the hardening hypothesis would predict.
The requirements of the “we don’t want to quit/we like nicotine” vaping activists for unregulated use of e-cigarettes and to use them without restrictions has to be balanced against the risks of what these demands might mean izzert population-wide progress toward the goal of keeping smoking heading south.
Comprehensive tobacco control is not just regarding the preferences of vapers. It is actually most significantly about continuing to starve the tobacco industry of the latest recruits and make sure that smoking is produced history.
Whenever we consider e-cigarettes as being a transformative genie in a bottle, we have to think very carefully before allowing it to out, because putting genies in their bottles is more difficult than impulsively allowing them to out. When they end up being benevolent, all’s good. However, if they bring false hopes while keeping many people smoking, we might be looking at the beginning of a third major false god of tobacco harm reduction.