First of all there is nothing wrong with nicotine-free options for someone who wants them. The problem is that producers and marketers limited to nicotine-free options, particular in a distorted market (as in Canada where most people think there is a ban) tend to leverage the misperception of nicotine as not only harmful but as one of the main reasons smoking is bad for you.
One of these companies, Smoke NV, based in my home town of Edmonton, was featured on a recent CBC podcast discussing e-cigarettes in Canada.
If you happen onto their site, you will read the following on their Why not nicotine? page.
We simply don’t believe that there is any benefit to having Nicotine in our product, further to this, we believe that research shows that it is not needed for a smoker to enjoy this product.
What has been discussed and is growing momentum is the harm reduction view within research. This is an acknowledgement of the fact that the use of an electronic cigarette is simply safer than the use of a traditional cigarette. Essentially for each puff of an electronic cigarette containing no nicotine you avoid a puff from a traditional cigarette. Obviously traditional cigarettes have been shown to cause cancer, heart disease, pulmonary disease etc. (Harm Reduction, Dr Phillips http://www.tobaccoharmreduction.org/faq/ecigs.htm)
The one reference for the research being used to back their claims that smokers do not require nicotine for an effective substitution is quite a strange one out of the University of East London where smokers found that nicotine-free e-cigarettes did alleviate cravings as successfully as regular e-cigarettes. But here’s the kicker. The subjects were smokers (who typically smoked 10 or more cigarettes a day) who had been deprived of smoking for just one hour and then tested 5 minutes after vaping. Somehow I don’t think that reflects true life experience.
The second paragraph is much more insidious.
Leaving aside the issue that they are linking to writing from a resource I participated in creating – tobaccoharmreduction.org – the subtle move from saying that 1. e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes to 2. because from our product you don’t get nicotine which 3. must have something to do with all those diseases you get from smoking. (This reminds me of the early days of e-cigarette marketing when the ad copy tended to mislead consumers by harping on about being safer because they tobacco free).
Smoke NV has positioned itself as firmly against nicotine and addiction. Sure, their product is better than smoking but if smokers really enjoy nicotine (and somehow I suspect that is the case) NV products are much more likely to have them scurrying back to cigarettes than a good old nicotine delivering e-cigarette would. So potentially nicotine-free e-cigarettes in competition with regular e-cigarettes could actually be harmful to public health.
On a more cynical note, on a recent vapecast discussing the CBC show, it was suggested that Smoke NV was inserting itself into the market and once Health Canada eased up would release nicotine versions. This might be more than likely. Following a link on a recent Siegel blogpost I found myself at the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association.
This is an American version of ECITA (UK) or ECTA (Canada) – an organizations that promote professionalism and compliance among its members. Oddly enough Smoke NV is one of those members. And though I have not looked through all of them, the ones I have are all your average nicotine delivering e-cigarette companies. Need I say more?
In summary, there is nothing wrong in supplying users who want nicotine-free e-cigarettes. They should be an option. But companies like this are insinuating that by virtue of their product containing no nicotine that it is healthier. And there is no real evidence for that.