Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Electronic Cigarettes the Feature of Los Angeles Times Article

An article published Saturday in the Los Angeles Times discusses electronic cigarettes, and the differing approaches being taken to this novel product in various countries.

While e-cigarettes are widely available in some countries, others have banned their sale. As the article reveals: "Even without smoke or fire, electronic cigarettes are sparking controversy. Australia, Canada and Hong Kong have banned them on the grounds that they have not been sufficiently tested for safety."

The article includes two important quotes from tobacco control experts. David Sweanor, an adjunct law professor at the University of Ottawa, stated: "This is exactly what the tobacco companies have been afraid of all these years, an alternative method of delivering nicotine that is actually enjoyable. It took the Chinese, who are very entrepreneurial, and not burdened with all kinds of regulation, to take the risk."

Bill Godshall, the executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania and a frequent commenting contributor to The Rest of the Story stated: "You have these abstinence-only extremists who want to eradicate all nicotine products. But as you've seen, whether we're talking about sex or alcohol or nicotine, abstinence doesn't really work." According to the article, Godshall has "collected 4,000 signatures on a petition to allow e-cigarettes to be legally sold in the United States."

The Rest of the Story

Congratulations to Bill Godshall and to Dave Sweanor for being willing to publicly put the protection of the health of smokers above the knee-jerk, ideological opposition to a smoking device that we have unfortunately seen far too much within the tobacco control movement. Congratulations to Bill also for his efforts to persuade the FDA to allow e-cigarettes to be legally sold in the United States.

This is an important effort that could result in saving countless lives.

I find it interesting and quite informative that while anti-smoking groups are promoting nicotine replacement therapy via pharmaceutical products - which have dismal efficacy - they are seeking a ban on nicotine replacement therapy via e-cigarettes, which appear to actually be reasonably effective.

What is informative about the inconsistent treatment of these different products by the anti-smoking groups is that there does not seem to be a primary concern for the public's health. Instead, the primary concern appears to be either for the financial well-being of the pharmaceutical companies or for the ideological notion that the act of using a cigarette-like device is to be scorned.

It is absurd to argue that e-cigarettes must be banned because they have not been sufficiently tested for safety. Regular cigarettes have been sufficiently tested for safety and they have been found to be unsafe. But they are still on the market. So why all the concern about testing e-cigarettes for safety? Since they deliver nicotine but not the tar, we know that they are going to be safer than conventional cigarettes. I maintain that it isn't truly safety and health concerns that are leading the anti-smoking groups to call on an e-cigarette ban. I think it is a combination of the financial influence of the pharmaceutical companies on tobacco control and the ideological resistance to the idea that any act of smoking could be tolerated.

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