In a beautifully-written and insightful open letter, Joanne at redheadfullofsteam has incisively dissected all the key elements that make electronic cigarettes such a successful innovation for smoking cessation and shown why the anti-smoking groups' desire to eliminate each one of these elements would be a disaster for public health.
Joanne writes: "In a little over a week’s time, I shall be
marking my first anniversary as a user of e-cigarettes – or “vaper”.
What this means is that at the same time last year, I was 26 years old
and had smoked cigarettes for, literally, half my life. I enjoyed
smoking. I enjoyed the sensation, the rituals associated with it, and
even took pleasure in the sight of the smoke coiling lazily from the end
of a cigarette. ... I
had absolutely no intention whatsoever of giving up smoking. ... But then something unexpected happened.
Through some rather clever direct marketing, I learned about
e-cigarettes. They looked to be a way of saving some money, and so I
wasted little time in ordering a starter kit consisting of a device
that, once assembled, very closely resembled a cigarette. As a committed
user of cigarettes, this mimicking of them was a hugely important
factor in my decision to try these devices. Anything else would have
made me feel too self conscious to even consider using one."
Here, right off the bat, Joanne articulates two key elements of electronic cigarettes that are critical to their success for smoking cessation. First, they resemble regular tobacco cigarettes. Second, it was the marketing of these products that led her to try them. Anti-smoking groups are bemoaning both of these elements. They complain because electronic cigarettes look like cigarettes. And many of them have called for a ban on electronic cigarette marketing. But either of these measures would destroy the entire point of this innovation. Electronic cigarettes work for smoking cessation specifically because they look like cigarettes. And smokers are enticed to try these products because of the clever marketing strategies. The electornic cigarettes would serve no purpose if they couldn't be effectively marketed to smokers.
Joanne continues: "Before long, I began to tire of the regular tobacco and menthol flavors I
had been using. I began to experiment with new flavors such as apple,
blueberry, gingerbread cookie, strawberry and – yes, bubble gum. As my
sense of taste began to return, I was able to experience and appreciate
these novel, and even fun, flavors to a degree that I had not enjoyed
for some years. Yes, some of those flavors are attractive to children.
But they are also incredibly and wonderfully attractive to an adult
whose sense of taste has been reawakened after years of being assaulted
by lit tobacco. In fact, as I began to tire of the more conventional
cigarette type flavors, it was the availability of new and unusual
flavors that kept me off tobacco, so much did I enjoy the experience."
Here, she articulates a critical aspect of the vaping experience that anti-smoking advocates want to destroy: the choice of flavors. Numerous anti-smoking groups have attacked e-cigarette companies for providing flavored varieties and they have called for a ban on electronic cigarette flavors. But as Joanne explains, the flavors are a key element that makes these products so attractive to smokers, especially to those who are trying to quit smoking completely.
Moreover, Joanne identifies a key point that has so far been missed by everyone: the flavors in electronic cigarettes draw the user further and further away from tobacco cigarettes, making a return to smoking much less desirable. Once the taste buds have been restored, the flavors are more appealing and tobacco becomes less appealing. Thus, banning the flavors in electronic cigarettes would render them much less effective in promoting smoking cessation.
Joanne's conclusion is better stated than anything I have written: "You need to overcome your prejudices and you need to stop confusing
e-cigarettes with tobacco. ... And you need to consider that however earnestly
you tell people of the harm they are visiting upon themselves, unless
you can show them a palatable alternative behavior they will choose to
ignore your advice. What you need to ask yourselves is not “can we risk allowing the
unimpeded rise of this disruptive technology?” You should be asking
“can we risk not allowing it?”"