Yes, governments and anti-smoking organizations should fund e-cig research and this post explains why. However, instead of taking the position “hey, e-cigs could be the answer to the deadly smoking problem” the response often is “we don’t know whether they’re safe or not, so let’s ban them or promote abstinence.”
I understand we don’t know everything about e-cigs such as whether they are safe or harmful, and if harmful, how harmful. However, I don’t see anyone proposing that they’re more harmful than real cigarettes (again, there’s still no evidence on this one way or another, but I haven’t read any evidence that e-cigs are more harmful than real cigarettes). Therefore, if the chances are really good that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, isn’t this a good reason for investing in research?
The following are examples of the backlash against e-cigarettes:
- States proposing (or kicking around the idea) to ban the sale of e-cigs via the Internet;
- Antismoking groups being anti-ecigarette. I appreciate their position against tobacco products; however, until there’s firm evidence about the safety/harm of e-cigarettes, I don’t think a position should be taken. In fact, I think they should invest in more e-cig research.
I agree there is no conclusive evidence at this point about the safety/harm of e-cigs … both first-hand and second-hand vapor. However, shouldn’t these organizations participate in the research? After all, their mandate is to stop the harmful smoking of real cigarettes (not a bad mandate for public health policies).
But if it turns out that e-cigs are safe, e-cigs could well be a wonderful tool that governments and anti-smoking organizations can embrace to help promote their primary cause of stopping traditional smoking. I see e-cigs as a potential tool that governments and organizations can embrace and promote if concluded to be safe (instead of taking a premature anti-electronic cigarette stance).
Here’s what’s known:
- Real cigarettes are deadly.
- Millions of people are switching to electronic cigarettes worldwide.
- Many of those millions of people are grateful for the e-cigarette alternative to real cigarettes (including me). Health issue aside, e-cigs are a viable alternative for many smokers.
- E-cigarettes do deliver nicotine (but so do the gum and the patch).
- E-cigarettes are enjoyable (at least for me and many other people) … they are a viable alternative to real cigarettes.
What’s it going to take?
- It’s going to take more people switching to e-cigarettes from traditional cigarettes (hit a critical mass).
- It’s going to take more research.
The results of extensive research will have a huge impact on the future of electronic cigarettes.
I appreciate that the damage real cigarettes caused to society over the years is causing what I believe is a premature backlash against e-cigs.
I understand that a non-smoker and non e-cig user who observes somebody vaping and exhaling vapor in public will think and may exclaim verbally “WTF?” But, that’s the problem, isn’t it? With more awareness and research about e-cigarettes, more non-vapor users will know that the person exhaling in a public place isn’t smoking a real cigarette, but is vaping. Of course, at this point, many non-vapors will say “we don’t know if second-hand vapor is harmful or not,” which is a valid point.
So, let’s get more research done on the safety issue. It would be great if some serious funding could go into research. After all, e-cigs could prove to be an excellent solution to a major health problem. I too would be interested in more conclusive studies … after all I vape. I vape because I loved smoking but prefer to use tobaccoless nicotine delivery systems … and frankly the e-cig is one of the most enjoyable nicotine delivery systems I’ve used.
What if it turns out E-cigs are harmful?
This is what I fear … not so much for my health, but that they are minimally harmful. The slightest harm finding will increase the backlash.
What should be carefully looked into and considered with respect to public policy is how harmful? After all french fries are harmful. Donuts are harmful. Cleaning with chemical cleaners is harmful. Breathing air where combustible engine vehicles run is harmful. Breathing air in urban and industrial locations is harmful. Our lives are fraught with harm and exposure to harm.
Therefore, research of e-cigarettes must examine the degree of harm (if it turns out they are harmful). It is then a cost/benefit decision for each user.
I also hope extensive research is conducted about any potential harm of second-hand vapor from e-cigs. But I fear that if there’s even a miniscule toxicity to second-hand vape that e-cigs will be banned everywhere. Even if they’re much less harmful than combustible vehicle exhaust, traditional second-hand smoke, and our air in general.
Promoting abstinence doesn’t work
In a perfect world, all smokers would wake up one day and quit. They wouldn’t chew nicotine gum, apply the patch or puff an electronic cigarette. I agree, if nicotine addiction ended overnight, that would be great.
But this is not going to happen. Just like people who aren’t ready for having a baby are going to abstain from having sex. It’s not going to happen.
Abstinence positions are moral impositions and the imposed pursuit of perfection, which reminds me of the saying “perfection is the enemy of the good.” Besides, let’s not forget about how enjoyable an e-cig is. I love vaping, and if e-cigs are minimally harmful, I’ll still use them. Just like I eat the occassional donut.
Should E-Cigs be banned in confined public places?
I hate to admit it, but probably they should be until there’s conclusive evidence that second-hand e-cig vapor is harmless. Banning e-cig use similarly to tobacco products isn’t unreasonable while the research is inconclusive. I’m pro e-cig, but there’s no reason to put the public at risk until more is known.
That said, if it turns out e-cig second-hand vapor is minimally toxic … much less than many other toxins we’re exposed to daily, it’s a judgment call whether to ban them everywhere. We’ll have to wait and see for the research.
Nicotine addiction and smoking in general should not be a moral issue
I hate it that smoking and all things nicotine-related is often perceived as a moral issue. It’s not. It’s a public health issue, whose policies should be based on fact. Morality and public policy do mix. Yes, establishing values such as “a healthy population is good” is a good policy. Another good policy is the pursuit of reducing/eliminating harm. These are good values because they promote life. However, these values must be balanced with personal freedom and liberty. If someone enjoys smoking or vaping, good for them if they do it where it doesn’t harm others. Smoking and vaping are not moral issues. It never was. It never should have become one.
What’s my point of bring morality into this article?
I fear that part of the reason more research isn’t funded by governments and anti-smoking organizations is in-part due to e-cigarette use being a moral issue. The number of smokers and e-cig users is a minority of the population. Many non-smokers and non-vapors view vaping and smoking as immoral (which is too bad). Therefore, governments and anti-smoking groups may not want to wade into research because of this.
I have no evidence this (morality hampering e-cig research) is the case, but things get muddled when morality is part of the equation. True motives are difficult to discern. It’s easy (but illogical) to take a moral stance on issues instead of looking at a decision purely on the facts and using logic.
To me, logic and the facts dictate that society would be well-served with more safe (or safer) smoking alternatives. If e-cigarettes prove to be safe (or much less harmful than real cigarettes), they will be a terrific alternative for smokers that will reduce overall harm. And it’s this possibility that leads me to my view that non e-cig industry companies should also fund research. Besides, it never hurts to have research funded by a variety of sources, each with their own overarching objectives.