The American Surgeon General published the first government report linking smoking and ill health fifty years ago. The report also demanded that the American government take best suited remedial action to reduce the damage brought on by smoking.
Since that time the portion of Americans who glow has fallen from 42% to 18% as well as in some states the amount of regular smokers can almost be counted in single figures. Similar reductions have occurred elsewhere. Almost half great britain population smoked in 1974. Now, less than a quarter do. The figures in Australia are even healthier.
This is good news because smoking causes a variety of diseases and is also the key reason for preventable deaths in lots of countries. Indeed, smoking might have killed as many as 100m individuals the 20th century as well as the World Health Organisation estimates the figure for the twenty-first century could be a mind-boggling 1 billion.
About fifty years ago another significant “smoking related” event happened: the first e-cigarette was patented. This is a system that produced vapour from tobacco without combustion. For many decades “vaping” remained a minority activity. But in the last few years these not-quite-so newfangled nicotine delivery devices are becoming rather popular. And concern has become raised over their use and particularly uptake among young people. While figures from Ash suggest a negligible quantity of 3 in 1 vape pen, a recent US-based study discovered that the proportion of middle and high school students in the united states who had ever used an e-cigarette greater than doubled between 2011-2012. Some analysts have even predicted that vaping may become popular than smoking inside a decade.
Modern e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporise nicotine for inhalation. They normally contain a cartridge containing liquid nicotine as well as a heating element created to produce an aerosol. Many also include flavourings like menthol – a fact which has been criticised on the grounds that flavourings could make e-cigarettes more desirable to children.
Although vaping (and passive vaping) could well be safer than smoking (and passive smoking) a number of toxicological analyses have revealed that e-cigarettes contain many dangerous chemicals. The great thing is that e-cigarettes are primarily used by people as being a popular quitting smoking aid. But it’s far away from clear how effective e-cigarettes are in helping men and women to quit smoking in the long term. More worryingly, some studies show that numerous “never smokers” have tried vaping. This really is of particular concern because e-cigarettes could act as a “gateway drug” to conventional cigarettes.
The relative lack of evidence regarding the safety, effectiveness and ultimate impact of e-cigarettes has led to the adoption of radically different approaches to the import, production, sale, distribution and advertising of these devices. Some countries, including Argentina, effectively prohibited them. But many jurisdictions allow e-cigarettes to get sold and consumed subjected to varying degrees of regulation. The EU, for example, has brought a somewhat hard line, yet it is unclear at this time what impact these new rules could have.
Ethically speaking, it might seem a good idea to be suspicious. E-cigarettes may not represent a modern day Trojan horse, however the recent interest shown by tobacco companies during these devices should give us all pause for thought. This does not mean that vaping ought to be entirely proscribed. Quite besides the proven fact that our liberty rights dictate otherwise, there is, as noted above, good reason to think that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than regular cigarettes and so the net influence on health (and longevity) may well htkcbf positive.
But because of the serious risk that vaping might re-glamourise smoking, especially between the young, a cautious regulatory approach is warranted. This should add a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to children as well as a The Big Apple-style ban on vaping in public indoor spaces and private office buildings. In addition, it seems eminently sensible to put in place regulations to ensure the marketing of e-cigarettes is restricted to current smokers.
Many will complain this too many restrictions on the sale and consumption will likely be counter-productive. Some experts have even claimed that quality control regulation is, essentially, all that is required, and that vaping may make smoking redundant. But this approach seems overly lax. In the end, there’s (usually) no vapour without fire.