In the latest New Scientist is a report on British American Tobacco’s acquisition of an e-cigarette company and apparently “is now planning to ask the UK authorities to recognise one of its products as a smoking-cessation medicine”.
Most of us pro-harm reductionists and vapers in general much prefer the recreational designation of e-cigarettes for more than one reason.
If medicalized they will 1. have the same sort of gestation times that new drugs to market do (years and years of testing) 2. limited availability 3. greater restrictions on the forms they might take (less choice for the consumer) and 4. power will be concentrated into fewer hands (only large companies like BAT will be able to afford the testing requirements).
If not medicalized, if recreational consumer products, they will 1. remain available subject to conforming to consumer protection guidelines 2. they will be as available as cigarettes (and isn’t that pretty important?) and 3. you are more likely to have one that suits your needs.
Ironically if categorized as medicine the immediate effect will be a harm to public health in making smokers wait years til they are cleared. (Of course, if BAT is pushing for medicalization it is most likely because they now that would give them quite the edge since few other groups could pony up the funds to join the party).
There is also the distinct possibility that as medicines they will be allowed a greater latitude in harm than is allowed in consumer products. Champix would have never been considered safe enough as a consumer product but somehow as medicine having a shot at quitting smoking is worth the risk of suicide.
But perhaps there is a third way – a compromise. Two distinct products not unlike the relationship of the pharmaceutical inhalers and e-cigarettes.
Why not leave the recreational e-cigarette available while allowing a product that is similar but tested as a cessation device. Big Tobacco and Big Pharma could market their cessation e-cigarettes in competition with regular e-cigarettes.
Imagine all of us vapers as runners (I know at least a few of us must be). We have a choice between running the streets, out in the country, in the woods, changing our pace as it suits us, and then we have the option of a treadmill. Roughly the same but oh so different.
That’s the post.
On a separate note I would like to announce the publication of a collaboration between James Dunworth and myself on an ebook Electronic Cigarettes: What the Experts Say
This collection of interviews with scientists, activists and users, compiled over 4 years of writing for the Ashtray Blog, explores whether the electronic cigarette is really safe – and what is behind the campaign against them. (For more details on the contents)
All profits will be donated to The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) and to the E-Cigarette Consumer Association of the UK (ECCA UK). You can download the book at either Amazon UK or Amazon USA.
Cheaper than a cup of coffee and all for the cause.