The electronic cigarette is advertised as a safe way to get nicotine while avoiding the harmful health effects of smoking cigarettes. While the e-cigarette may be a nicotine replacement therapy, the smoking pros and cons of such a method warrant serious examination. Introducing artificial cigarettes into the marketplace will not likely be successful in reducing the costly harmful effects of tobacco in society as a whole because it does not address the way that people behave, think, and feel, and about the use of cigarettes as part of everyday life experience and may have the opposite effect actually increasing the prevalence of tobacco use.
Is the E-Cigarette Really Harm Reduction?
The harm reduction model emphasizes providing care over punishment and is embraced as a way of reducing the number of problems associated with drug addiction. From an individual perspective the electronic cigarette can be said to be method of harm reduction, however, the effects of addictions go beyond those in the individual user. Families and communities also feel the effects of addiction and drug use.
To date most harm reduction methods for drug addiction have been directed at illicit drug users and have shown to be effective in reducing the number of health problems in the individual and the community. This happens because the users have improved access to professionals and are supervised and monitored as part of the total harm reduction model. But can the same be said for the electronic cigarette?
The proponents of the e-cigarette spread the message that harm to the individual, the family, and the community is reduced because these are smokeless cigarettes and all of the health risks of smoking cigarettes and the equally harmful environmental tobacco smoke come from the effects of tobacco combustion not necessarily from nicotine. The goal is to have all smokers switch to this newer and safer form of smoking (also called “vaping”) so that there is less potential for harm.
While this seems like a logical argument at face value there is a larger more systemic issue that must be considered, and that is the re-normalization of cigarette smoking in a society. If the electronic cigarette is in common use within a society, what is the emotional message that will be delivered to the populations that are vulnerable to the start smoking decision?
Social Effects of the E-Cigarette
Many countries have worked hard to deliver the message that cigarette smoking is harmful, unsociable and undesirable. These messages along with tobacco laws and other control measures have been successful in reducing the prevalence of smoking within Canada to less than 18% nationally.
If the electronic cigarette is available and in common use, will the message now change to: “Smoking is glamorous, sociable, harmless and normal” as it was in the 1950′s?
Safety of the product notwithstanding is it ethical to portray smoking in a society as a harmless, glamorous, value added activity that brings about better enjoyment of life?
If the harmful health effects of smoking cigarettes in a society are to be reduced and maintained a low levels it is necessary not just to substitute a smokeless cigarette for the real thing, but to create an emotional environment where smokers want to quit and non smokers do not want to start.
This means that the majority of the members in a society must view cigarette smoking as an undesirable, unsociable and harmful activity that is neither necessary nor beneficial to human well being and everyday life.
If the electronic cigarette is used commonly in society, that message may very well be reversed and the incidence and prevalence of tobacco smoking in the general population may increase again.
Explore reasons used to justify a smoking addiction at www.smoking-facts-and-fiction.com where Beverly Hansen OMalley provides even more information about the facts on smoking.