Sunday, June 07, 2015

Tobacco Control Advocate Argues that to Reduce Smoking, We Should Ban Fake Cigarettes But Keep the Real Ones

In a twist of logic that completely defies me, an Australian professor and tobacco control advocate is calling for a complete ban on e-cigarette sales, but wants real cigarettes to continue being sold. And such a policy, he argues, is designed to reduce smoking.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, this professor argues that e-cigarettes should be completely banned because of concerns about their safety and efficacy and because of what he claims are outrageous claims and irresponsible promotion.

According to the article: "Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University Mike Daube said Australia was leading the world on reducing smoking, and the last thing we needed was the distraction of e-cigarettes. 'It is worrying that although there are serious concerns about both safety and efficacy, these products are being sold and promoted,' he said. 'Some of the products on the market are simply outrageous, with utterly irresponsible promotion. The priority now is to get on with all the action we know can reduce smoking, and not be distracted by the siren songs of Big Tobacco and fly-by-night companies.'"

However, despite even worse concerns about the "safety and efficacy" of real cigarettes and a history of "outrageous claims" and "irresponsible promotion," the same professor wants smokers to be able to continuing buying these deadly products. In fact, he has publicly argued against banning real cigarettes.

With respect to cigarettes, Professor Daube argues that: "It is one thing to protect non-smokers from the harms of passive smoking, but banning someone from engaging in an activity in private falls into a different category."

But apparently, banning someone from engaging in an activity in private doesn't fall into a different category if that activity happens to be vaping.

A second reason Professor Daube gives for keeping cigarettes on the market is that: "We have to recognise that some smokers find it hard to quit, and a complete ban on smoking is a measure that could lead to legitimate counter-arguments. Proposals for a total ban on smoking would provide justification for hitherto unsubstantiated claims from tobacco companies and their fellow-travelers that tobacco control advocates are penalising and persecuting smokers, when the reality is that our activities are aimed at helping them... ."

But apparently, a complete ban on vaping does not lead to any counter-arguments. Furthermore, Daube argues that while smoking shouldn't be banned because some will argue that it is an attempt to punish and persecute smokers, he apparently doesn't see any way the same argument could be made about banning vaping, even though such a ban would deprive smokers of a bona fide method of quitting smoking that is in huge demand throughout the world.

Professor Daube argues that: "We should look for new approaches to curbing cigarette sales and discouraging smoking."

But apparently, those new approaches do not include promoting a switch from deadly smoking to a much safer product which contains no tobacco and involves no combustion, and which has been used by thousands of smokers to quit smoking when all traditional approaches failed.

Tobacco industry experts have predicted that cigarette consumption could be cut in half within a decade if e-cigarettes are allowed to be promoted and sold. Professor Daube, however, prefers to prevent this from happening by banning e-cigarettes, all the while fighting against a ban on the real ones: tobacco cigarettes which are actually killing people. 

The Rest of the Story

It makes no sense to me to ban e-cigarettes while allowing the real ones to remain on the market. If anything, we should be moving in the opposite direction: shifting the use of nicotine from extremely hazardous cigarette smoking to much lower risk non-tobacco, non-combusted products.

I just don't understand how the logic in the tobacco control movement has become so seriously warped. We are now arguing that to reduce smoking, we should protect Big Tobacco's cigarettes from competition from much safer products that do not contain any tobacco.

Why do we want to do this huge favor for the cigarette industry? Why do we want to ban a product that is seriously eating away at cigarette sales and is projected to take a huge chunk out of cigarette sales in the near future? Why do we want to ban people from engaging in an activity in private, and at that, an activity which is likely greatly reducing their risk of disease and death? Why do want to interfere with the autonomy of smokers to make a decision that just might save their lives? Why do we want to ban a bona fide method for smoking cessation that has been successful for thousands of smokers, especially when the success rates for treatments currently on the market are a dismal 10-12%?

The logic of the modern-day anti-smoking movement defies me. Does anyone care to explain?

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