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 reassured countless 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, that the ACCC outlawed from 2005 as being a consumer fraud.
Along the way we saw reduced carcinogen brands and even asbestos filtered cigarettes.
There was clearly 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.
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 areas health who innocently thought these were no-brainers. Nigel Gray, a huge of global tobacco control, later admitted that the decades-long, well-intentioned low-tar harm-reduction policy had been a disaster.
Meanwhile, we continued with the core policies of attempting to prevent uptake, encourage quit attempts and denormalise smoking via smoke-free policies to guard non-smokers. Together, these objectives have delivered Australia the best 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 likely to never reach even half the peak we saw in males. Awkwardly for many, Australia has become a world leader in reducing smoking with no mass cessation clinic network or major embrace of e cig reviews.
Today, demands are being made 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 the 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 in just a few years, sufficient evidence has accumulated to exhibit that e-cigarettes both are benign and perfect for cessation.
But the “can’t quit” argument has received remarkably little critical interrogation. We understand that hundreds of millions of often heavily dependent smokers have quit considering that the early 1960s, most without any assistance in any way.
We know that today’s smokers smoke fewer cigarettes each day than at any time before, the opposite of exactly what the hardening hypothesis would predict.
The needs from the “we don’t wish to quit/we like nicotine” vaping activists for unregulated usage of e-cigarettes as well as make use of them without restrictions should be balanced from the perils 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 is most importantly about continuing to starve the tobacco industry of the latest recruits and ensure that smoking is created history.
Whenever we think of e-cigarettes being a transformative genie in a bottle, we have to think meticulously before letting it out, because putting genies way back in their bottles is much more difficult than impulsively allowing them to out. When they prove to be benevolent, all’s good. But when they bring false hopes while keeping many people smoking, we may be exploring the early days of a third major false god of tobacco harm reduction.