Promote Health by Not Defending the E-Cigarette Ban

Harm reduction — opting for a product or activity that is not harmless but is better than the existing alternative — is a common and obvious strategy that we employ almost unthinkingly. For example, many drugs used for chemotherapy to treat cancer are highly toxic and cause a variety of serious side effects, but taking them is better than leaving the cancer untreated.

Another example is the substitution of lower-risk nicotine products, such as electronic “cigarettes” that deliver nicotine in vapor form, for tobacco cigarettes. Because there is no combustion, using these devices (“vaping”) is intrinsically less dangerous than cigarettes — 95 percent less harmful, according to Public Health England — and they can help adults to quit smoking. England’s Royal College of Physicians urged doctors last year to “promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT [nicotine replacement therapy] and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK,” because they provide “nicotine without the smoke.” And Professor Michael Russell, whose research was the foundation for the 1988 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on nicotine addiction, said simply: “People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar.”
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