The EU parliament has rejected the provisions of the Tobacco Product Directive that would have regulated electronic cigarettes as drugs, thus essentially removing them from the market or making it extremely difficult for them to compete as an alternative to real cigarettes.
According to an article in the Globe and Mail: "Legislators also voted for new limits on advertising for electronic
cigarettes, but rejected a measure that would have restricted them to
medical use only. The battery-operated products, which are enjoying a
boom in the United States and many European countries, turn nicotine
into a vapour inhaled by the user and are often marketed as a less
harmful alternative to tobacco. Many health experts say e-cigarettes are
useful for people trying to quit or cut down on nicotine."
Peruga, a tobacco control expert at WHO in Geneva, said regulating
e-cigarettes wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing and that WHO is
currently evaluating their safety and effectiveness. “We do think
e-cigarettes could be useful, but we need more information. We have not
yet ruled them out. We do think they could be helpful for some smokers.”"
The Rest of the Story
The tide is starting to turn, as evidenced not only by the EU Parliament's decision to allow electronic cigarettes to compete with tobacco cigarettes, but also by the complete change in the WHO's position on these products. The WHO had previously blasted electronic cigarettes and recommended strongly against their use. Now, however, the WHO actually opines that electronic cigarettes could be helpful for some smokers.
What caused this turn of events and the turning of the tide regarding opinion on electronic cigarettes?
The answer is ...
... the vaping community.
It is the actual users of these products who are responsible for the changing attitudes toward electronic cigarettes, including the EU Parliament's rejection of the de facto e-cigarette ban and the WHO's change of heart on e-cigarettes.
The voices of the actual people who use these products have drowned out the ideological hysteria of anti-smoking groups and officials.
The vaping community is to be congratulated because it has been successful in building a movement in which its voice can be heard. The many vaping forums, advocacy actions, and advocacy groups, and the public presence of vapers has made the difference by showing policy makers that while anti-smoking groups continue to talk about theoretical people who don't exist, there are tens of thousands of people who do exist and who are benefiting from these products.
This reminds me of a pet peeve of mine. I hate when I'm sitting in a restaurant waiting for a long time to be served and the restaurant staff is busy setting the other tables for people who have not yet arrived. While they meticulously set the table for hypothetical customers who may or may not arrive, there are actual customers in the establishment right now who need service.
The anti-smoking groups are acting like those restaurant staff. While they use scare-mongering to get policy makers to worry about the hypothetical people who don't yet exist - smokers who would otherwise quit if not for e-cigarettes and youth smokers who initiated because of e-cigarette use - they are ignoring the tens of thousands of people who have improved their health and possibly saved their lives because of electronic cigarettes.
Fortunately, hearing from actual people who have benefited from these products is drowning out the complaints of anti-smoking groups about the hypothetical possibilities that have not yet occurred. Nearly every proposed ban on electronic cigarettes has so far been defeated, largely because the vaping community has spoken out and when policy makers have heard what these products are doing for smokers, they have seen the light and decided not to restrict the ability of these ex-smokers to remain ex-smokers.
Has the FDA also heard the voices of the vaping community? We'll find out momentarily, as the proposed regulations should be released shortly.
In the meantime, the vaping community should take time to celebrate its accomplishments. It has overcome quite a formidable lobby, one that for some reason has forsaken the public's health to ensure that society does not condone a behavior that looks like smoking, even though it is saving lives.