A report provided to the Minister of Health and Social Affairs in France has created the same conflicting point of view electronic cigarette advocates have been fighting for a long time. The report says that electronic cigarettes are better than conventional, combustible cigarettes, that they shouldn’t be prohibited by the government, and that they even deserve their own category for the purposes of regulation. And yet, the report stated that regulators should treat e-cigs like cigarettes in pretty much all ways that matter.
The report (which you can read about here) states that electronic cigarette are of low risk. Experts behind the report even suggest that the government create a new regulatory category for PETs (“products evoking tobacco”) — that is, products like electronic cigarettes which provide nicotine but don’t utilize tobacco or which don’t provide nicotine but look and act like tobacco products. Despite this, the report then suggests regulating electronic cigarettes like smoking by imposing the same bans on where use can be done, how e-cig products can be advertised, and where electronic cigarettes can be displayed and sold.
This seems to be common now among opponents to electronic cigarettes. The relative simplicity of electronic cigarettes and their ingredients means we already know more about them than we do cigarette smoke. So it’s becoming harder for opponents to stick to the argument that we don’t know what’s in them and that they could be just as dangerous as conventional cigarettes. So now, many are forced to admit that electronic cigarettes are safer, though they might allude that they are only a little safer.
But they still want to his e-cigs with all the regulations that apply to conventional cigarettes (if they can’t be banned entirely, that is). Often they simply suggest applying the same rules and regulations to them that currently apply to conventional smokes.
That argument is getting harder to make. These experts don’t want to sound out of touch with the latest research, so they find themselves saying, Yes, e-cigs are safer and different and better… but that doesn’t mean we can’t treat them like the exact same thing.
This was the case in the report to the French Minister of Health. France has been extremely against smoking on the whole. Some 70% of people support most major smoking bans and the fine for smoking where you shouldn’t is usually no less than 500 euros ($643 US by today’s count).
So the arguments against electronic cigarettes are more and more weighing on the flimsy, abstract and moral debates that can’t be easily won by science. The most prominent tends to be that e-cigs will renormalize smoking and undo decades of work to make it uncool and uninteresting to people that might start. This can’t be proven (at least not easily) and can tug on parent and family group heart strings with claims that a new category of child smoker will develop if this industry is allowed to grow.
The more science provides distinct answers to the low risk and high success of e-cigs, the more this conflicting point of view will become prominent and clear. Eventually, opponents may be forced to admit that they don’t care what they science says, they just don’t want anything resembling smoking to exist in the society they would like to believe they’re a part of.
It’ll be interesting to see what excuses they come up with next.