Is the proof in the eliquid pudding when it comes to harm reduction?
If you haven't seen it already, there's a pretty powerful cover feature that ran in The Spectator lately, and it makes the case for believing in the life-saving abilities of ecigarettes despite the dearth of conclusive evidence.
Author Derek Yach, who has spent many years as a committed anti-tobacco activist, pointed to Sweden as an example. Sweden is the only country in the European Union that didn't ban snus, a smokeless tobacco product that users tuck against their gums. Coincidentally, Swedish men also have the lowest death rate in the entire EU, and cigarette smoking in Sweden was observed to decline as the use of snus increased.
The trouble with ecigarettes -- for now -- is that they haven't been around long enough to analyse the correlation between vaping and death rates.
However, there's still good reason to believe that they're saving lives.
For one, multiple studies have found ecigarette vapour to be far less toxic than cigarette smoke. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that though second-hand smoke from ecigarettes was not entirely blameless; the smoke contained one-tenth of the harmful particles found in cigarette smoke.
Additionally, cigarette smokers who switch to vaping do have measured success in kicking the habit. A UCL survey of smokers in England found that smokers who try to quit without professional help report 60% higher success rates when using ecigarettes than when using other nicotine replacement products or methods.
It almost doesn't make sense that governments would ban a product like this if it appeared to be doing the population well. Then again, like snus, it's no secret that the emerging ecigarette industry is paying for the sins of Big Tobacco. Government agencies have grown accustomed to distrusting tobacco companies -- and for good reason. But treating vaping products the same way could result in a major opportunity cost: fewer lives saved.