The American Surgeon General published the very first government report linking smoking and ill health half a century ago. The report also demanded that the American government take acceptable remedial action to reduce the damage brought on by smoking.
Since that time the portion of Americans who illuminate has fallen from 42% to 18% and in some states the amount of regular smokers can almost be counted in single figures. Similar reductions have occurred elsewhere. Up to 50 % the UK population smoked in 1974. Now, under a quarter do. The figures in Australia are even healthier.
This is good news because smoking causes a number of different diseases and is also the key reason for preventable deaths in lots of countries. Indeed, smoking may have killed as many as 100m folks the twentieth century and also the World Health Organisation estimates the figure for your twenty-first century could be a mind-boggling 1 billion.
About fifty years ago another significant “smoking related” event happened: the first electronic cigarette was patented. This is a product that produced vapour from tobacco without combustion. For a lot of decades “vaping” remained a minority activity. But in the last several years these not-quite-so newfangled nicotine delivery devices have become rather popular. And concern continues to be raised over their use and particularly uptake among younger people. While figures from Ash suggest a negligible variety of vape pen tanks, a newly released US-based study found that the proportion of middle and school students in the usa who had ever used an e-cigarette greater than doubled between 2011-2012. Some analysts have even predicted that vaping could 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 and a heating element designed to produce an aerosol. Many include flavourings like menthol – an undeniable fact which was criticised on the grounds that flavourings may make e-cigarettes more desirable to children.
Although vaping (and passive vaping) may well be safer than smoking (and passive smoking) numerous toxicological analyses have demostrated that e-cigarettes contain many dangerous chemicals. The great thing is that e-cigarettes are primarily employed by people as being a popular smoking cessation aid. But it’s far from clear how effective e-cigarettes have been in helping individuals to give up smoking eventually. More worryingly, some studies show that numerous “never smokers” have tried vaping. This really is of particular concern because e-cigarettes could serve as a “gateway drug” to conventional cigarettes.
The relative insufficient evidence about the safety, effectiveness and ultimate impact of e-cigarettes has resulted in the adoption of radically different approaches to the import, production, sale, distribution and advertising of such devices. Some countries, such as Argentina, effectively prohibited them. But a majority of jurisdictions allow e-cigarettes to become sold and consumed susceptible to varying levels of regulation. The EU, for example, has taken a fairly hard line, but it is unclear at this time what impact these new rules could have.
Ethically speaking, it would seem smart to be skeptical. E-cigarettes may not represent a modern Trojan horse, nevertheless the recent interest shown by tobacco companies during these devices should provide us with all pause for thought. This does not necessarily mean that vaping should be entirely proscribed. Quite apart from the fact that our liberty rights dictate otherwise, there is, as noted above, good reason to consider that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than regular cigarettes and so the net impact on health (and longevity) may well htkcbf positive.
But due to the serious risk that vaping might re-glamourise smoking, especially amongst the young, a cautious regulatory approach is warranted. This ought to incorporate a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to children along with a The Big Apple-style ban on vaping in public places indoor spaces and private offices. It also seems eminently sensible to put in place regulations to ensure the marketing of e-cigarettes is fixed to current smokers.
Many will complain that too many restrictions on the sale and consumption is going to be counter-productive. Some experts have even claimed that quality control regulation is, pretty much, all that is needed, which vaping may make smoking redundant. But this method seems overly lax. In the end, there’s (usually) no vapour without fire.