Battling big brother: The story of the electronic cigarette

Source : https://dofollownet.com

Kate had been smoking for 27 years when she first came across the electronic cigarette.

"I was browsing an online gadget shop," she remembers. "I saw one and thought it must be a useless gimmick..."

That didn't stop her from first searching for more information - and then buying an early model.


Like thousands of other smokers around the world, Kate had switched to a device which delivers nicotine - both the addictive and the pleasurable part of cigarettes - without the tar, toxins and combustion of traditional tobacco cigarettes.

There's numerous benefits. In addition to saving smokers hundreds of dollars in tobacco taxes, the device can be smoked in places where cigarettes can't (one woman told me it saved her marriage on a flight to Australia!), carries no odour and is not a fire hazard.

Scientists and activists involved in tobacco harm reduction have been quick to express support for the device.

"Nicotine should not come with a death sentence," David Sweanor, a former advisor to the WHO on tobacco control told me. He admits there is a risk to smoking electronic cigarettes, but believes this is minimal compared to smoking tobacco cigarettes.

"Rather than the unattainable standard of ‘safe’ we should be thinking in terms of ‘safer’. Despite the risks associated with soccer, I would, for instance, prefer my children play soccer rather than play with live hand grenades."

Despite the opposition to the electronic cigarette, he is optimistic.

"Seldom is there an offer to become a billionaire while saving millions of lives. I think there will be takers."

A Threat to Established Interests

The device, though, threatens older and more established industries.

Between them, the tobacco industry and the nicotine cessation industry (which is in turn run by the pharmaceutical industry) generates hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue each year.

Marlboro has been quick to urge regulation of the device, while at the same time urging a relaxation of restrictions on its own alternative smoking products.

Meanwhile, anti-smoking organisations, which are funded to the tune of millions by the pharmaceutical industry, have been quick to condemn the device.

One supporter, Professor Michael Siegel, told me:

"Between the influence of Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, it's going to be very difficult for electronic cigarette manufacturers to get the ear of public policy makers."

The American Anti-Smoking Lobby

"If you had a serial killer who liked to stab people, would you give him a rubber knife?" asked Serena Chen of the American Lung Association when trying to explain the organisation's policy on e-cigarettes.

The statement was revealing.

Other criticisms seemed hollow. The lobby had accused the e-cigarette industry of using flavours to attract children, but the pharmaceutical industry also used flavours to make NRT products more attractive. They pointed out that the main ingredient, propylene glycol, was used in anti-freeze - without mentioning that its purpose was to make anti-freeze less toxic for use in drinking water. They worried that it was a gateway into smoking - but with no evidence, and with the device delivering less nicotine than cigarettes, it was hard to see how it could be.

The real fear is that when you remove the quit or die approach of anti-smokers, smoker's won't want to quit.

Because anti-smokers don't want smokers to have a rubber knife. They want them to have no knife at all. *


In America the FDA declared war on the device, releasing a press release stating that the ingredients contained tobacco specific nitrosamines, one of the 40 carcinogens found in cigarette smoke.

What they didn't say was that the levels of the one carcinogen found were more than 1400 times lower than those found in cigarettes, nor that the levels of nitrosamines were similar to those found in approved nicotine cessation aids.

The FDA were later defeated in court by one of the biggest brands in the e-cigarette industry, NJOY, but the damage had been done.

A slew of negative stories appeared both in the UK and abroad - one stating that the device contained 40 times as much nicotine as traditional cigarettes - and the UK equivalent of the FDA, the MHRA, used it as evidence to push for regulation.

Kate, who now runs the consumer website Vapers' Network and activates for the continued use of the electronic cigarette, has little doubt of the real motivation:

In the end it comes down to money for the vested interests who declare ownership of our commodities (most often pharmaceutical companies) and power for the people who wield the tools of control for them. And they're prepared to sacrifice the lives of millions to keep themselves on top.

(In contrast to ASH America, ASH UK have been supportive of the device and ASH New Zealand see it as an eventual replacement for cigarettes!)

James Dunworth works for ECigaretteDirect. He is also a co-author of "Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes): a potential harm reduction product," a study carried out in conjuntion with the TobaccoHarmReduction.org website at the University of Alberta, and has interviewed numerous scientists on the electronic cigarette. For more information see his free ebook: The Electronic Cigarette.

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