Arguments against e-cigarettes go up in smoke

Perfect solutions don’t drop out of thin air, but vaping is a huge success

By Rachel Cunliffe

(Reaction)

It’s official: e-cigarettes help people quit smoking.

If this sounds like something we’ve known for a while, it’s because it is. The report from the British Medical Journal is not the first major study on the benefits of using e-cigarettes (or “vaping”) – in fact, in the past year both the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England have come to the same conclusion. Vaping has been proven to be 95 percent less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes, is not a gateway into smoking, and has been associated with 18,000 Brits quitting tobacco since last year alone.

Despite the obvious benefits, both to would-be quitters and to public health in general, there are some still determined to demonise e-cigarettes as much as possible. In March, EU diplomats agreed unanimously to tax e-cigarettes at the same rate as traditional cigarettes, regardless of the difference in harm. Meanwhile in the US, e-cigarettes and vaping products have just been placed under the FDA’s tobacco control authority, even if they contain no actual tobacco at all. New vaping products must now be subjected to an application process that could cost between $3 million and $20 million, playing straight into the hands of Big Tobacco companies as the FDA stamps their competition out for them. As well as stifling e-cigarette entrepreneurs, the costs of both the American and EU measures will inevitably be born by smokers, who will see their most effective aids to quitting rise in price and decrease in quality.

The objections to e-cigarettes are well-meaning but irrational. No smoking is obviously better than e-smoking, and vaping is not 100 percent safe, but it’s by far the best alternative for the millions addicted to tobacco. Attempting to restrict a solution because it isn’t perfect is counter-productive in the extreme. It’s the same logic environmentalists use when they rail against genetically modified crops which could radically reduce the use of dangerous pesticides and combat world hunger. It’s moralists warning HIV prevention drugs could increase rates of unsafe sex. It’s Jeremy Corbyn denouncing fracking but considering reopening Britain’s coal mines, which are far more environmentally harmful.

Perfect solutions don’t drop out of thin air. They take trial and error, and often the best way to find them is to let entrepreneurs experiment and see what they come up with. As the latest BMJ study on e-cigarettes proves, innovators have been highly success at producing something which helps people quit smoking with minimal risk. So let’s be practical, pay attention to the science, and give them the space and resources to keep going.

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