The American Surgeon General published the first federal government report linking smoking and ill health 50 years ago. The report also demanded that the American government take appropriate helpful action to lessen the harm brought on by smoking.
Since that time the amount of Americans who illuminate has fallen from 42% to 18% and in some states the portion of regular smokers can almost be counted in single figures. Similar reductions have occurred elsewhere. Up to 50 % great britain population smoked in 1974. Now, under a quarter do. The figures in Australia are even healthier.
This is extremely fantastic news because smoking causes many different diseases and it is the key reason for preventable deaths in lots of countries. Indeed, smoking might have killed up to 100m people in the twentieth century as well as the World Health Organisation estimates that this figure for that modern day could be a mind-boggling 1 billion.
About fifty years ago another significant “smoking related” event happened: the first electronic cigarette was patented. This was a device that produced vapour from tobacco without combustion. For a lot of decades “vaping” remained a minority activity. But within the last several years these not-quite-so newfangled nicotine delivery devices have become rather popular. And concern has been raised over their use and particularly uptake among young adults. While figures from Ash suggest a negligible variety of best vape pen, a recent US-based study found that the proportion of middle and high school students in the usa who had ever used an electronic cigarette more than doubled between 2011-2012. Some analysts have even predicted that vaping could become more popular than smoking in a decade.
Modern e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporise nicotine for inhalation. They normally consist of a cartridge containing liquid nicotine as well as a heating element created to produce an aerosol. Many also include flavourings like menthol – a well known fact which was criticised on the grounds that flavourings might make e-cigarettes more appealing to children.
Although vaping (and passive vaping) may be safer than smoking (and passive smoking) numerous toxicological analyses have shown that e-cigarettes contain many dangerous chemicals. The good thing is that e-cigarettes are primarily used by people being a popular smoking cessation aid. But it’s not even close to clear how effective e-cigarettes will be in helping individuals to quit smoking eventually. More worryingly, some research indicates that numerous “never smokers” have tried vaping. This can be of particular concern because e-cigarettes could work as a “gateway drug” to conventional cigarettes.
The relative insufficient evidence regarding the safety, effectiveness and ultimate impact of e-cigarettes has resulted in the adoption of radically different methods to the import, production, sale, distribution and advertising of those devices. Some countries, like Argentina, effectively prohibited them. But most jurisdictions allow e-cigarettes to get sold and consumed susceptible to varying degrees of regulation. The EU, for example, has brought a fairly hard line, yet it is unclear at this stage what impact these new rules could have.
Ethically speaking, it might seem a good idea to be skeptical. E-cigarettes may well not represent a modern Trojan horse, however the recent interest shown by tobacco companies within these devices should give us all pause for thought. This does not mean that vaping needs to be entirely proscribed. Quite aside from the simple fact that our liberty rights dictate otherwise, there is certainly, as noted above, good reason to think that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than regular cigarettes and so the net impact on health (and longevity) could very well htkcbf positive.
But due to the serious risk that vaping might re-glamourise smoking, especially between the young, a cautious regulatory approach is warranted. This should include a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to children as well as a New York-style ban on vaping in public indoor spaces and private offices. Additionally, it seems eminently sensible to put in place regulations to make sure that the marketing of e-cigarettes is fixed to current smokers.
Many will complain that too many restrictions on the sale and consumption will be counter-productive. Some experts have even claimed that quality control regulation is, pretty much, all that is needed, and that vaping could make smoking redundant. But this approach seems overly lax. In the end, there’s (usually) no vapour without fire.