Friday, September 18, 2015

Anti-Tobacco Researcher Criticizes Vape Shops for Trying to Get Smokers to Quit

In the tobacco control field, one would expect that we would applaud businesses that are attempting to get as many smokers as possible to quit smoking. And one would think that we would praise companies or businesses whose value proposition is to make cigarette smoking obsolete.

Not so, however.

The Rest of the Story

Instead of praising businesses that are trying to get as many smokers as possible to quit, most tobacco control groups and advocates are condemning businesses for such efforts.

One example is a communication from Dr. Stan Glantz, who criticizes a vaping shop in the UK for trying to get smokers to quit by switching to a much safer alternative nicotine-delivering product (electronic cigarettes). The vaping shop has a sign on the front of the store noting that the National Health Service declared that electronic cigarettes are much safer than tobacco cigarettes.

What is there to criticize? The vaping shop is telling the truth. Vaping is much safer than smoking. And the vape shop's objective is to get as many smokers as possible to quit smoking by switching to this much safer alternative. It's value proposition, clearly, is to make cigarette smoking obsolete. The more people who quit smoking by switching to electronic cigarettes, the more money vape shops make. And they make more money if smokers switch completely to e-cigarettes (that is, quit smoking), than if they become dual users.

What's not to like?

Essentially, vape shops are doing the work of public health. Yes, they are businesses and they are making money, but the work they are doing is contributing to the improvement of the public's health.

In fact, many vape shops have essentially become a type of "smoking cessation clinic." The only difference is that these vape shops are much more effective than typical smoking cessation clinics. They create an entire culture around quitting smoking. There is a tremendous amount of social support. They create an identity for the smoker who is attempting to quit. They create what becomes a type of "hobby" that helps to sustain the new behavior.

While I agree that there is a need for regulations to regulate vape shops (and all other e-cigarette sellers and manufacturers) to ensure uniform quality control standards, I believe that these shops are to be praised, not condemned, because they are helping thousands of smokers to quit smoking, and many more to cut down on the amount they smoke. The public health benefits of the products they are selling is substantial.

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