An op-ed ran in the New York Times Monday of this week (Dec. 9th) about the electronic cigarettes debate. The piece came from two sociomedical sciences (public health) professors and makes quite a case for the support and flexible regulation of electronic cigarettes. In particular, they argue that as good as they appear to be, forcing them out of sight is counterproductive to anti-smoking efforts.
Amy Fairchild and James Colgrove are professors at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia and it seems clear based on their piece that they took their time reaching the conclusion that electronic cigarettes should be supported rather than banned or harshly regulated. “No one believes nicotine addiction is a good thing, and our qualified support for e-cigarettes is not one we reach lightly,” they say.
You can and should read the op-ed right here.
Fairchild and Colgrove do a really good job of explaining why regulators are having such a hard time with the electronic cigarette debate — and it’s not simply that they look like conventional smokes. The issues stem largely from 1980’s when it became apparent that tobacco companies had lied about the dangers of smoking for decades and was not acting in good faith with regulator efforts to turn smokers towards a reduced risk option — e-cigs with less tar and less nicotine.
The ultimate conclusion was that the tobacco industry couldn’t be trusted to produce and sell a lower harm option to smokers. Despite those conclusions being reached roughly 3 decades ago, many regulators aren’t really willing to revisit those issues and consider that e-cigs might be something different.
In short, regulators truely believe that There is not such thing as a safer cigarette as stated by the American Heart Association head put it in 2000. But they never could have imagined a technological electronic cigarette that offered the experience without the smoke.
Perhaps the most intriguing and telling line of the entire piece is how the pair sum up the reduced harm movement — which came mostly to a standstill in the 80’s due to tobacco company dishonesty.
The historical mistake was not the pursuit of a safer cigarette, but championing that cause with dishonest partners.
It’s pieces like this that will gradually grow public awareness of the debate and turn many figures to the side of support over prohibition. It’s taking a while, but it always helps to have truth on your side.