New York Times editorialist Joe Nocera penned a very compelling piece about the issues around the e-cigarette, and the potential it has for harm reduction. As Clive Bates has repeatedly noted, harm reduction is the combination of reduced risk and the number of people who use the product. If a product has perfect risk reduction but no one tries it or uses it, the harm reduction benefit is zero. On the other hand, a product that reduces risk significantly and is used by 50% of the target population has a very significant social harm reduction benefit.
The arguments for banning e-cigarettes have become a moral crusade, according to Mr. Nocera’s article and an interview with Michael Siegel. As Mr. Nocera writes,
“When we got to talking about the opposition to e-cigarettes in the public health community, he said, “The antismoking movement is so opposed to the idea of smoking it has transcended the science, and become a moral crusade. I think there is an ideological mind-set in which anything that looks like smoking is bad. That mind-set has trounced the science.”
Perhaps the best quote from the article, since it clearly highlights the extent both sides will go to in this discussion, is
“At that recent New York City Council meeting, one of the fiercest critics to testify was Kevin O’Flaherty of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck and it sounds like a duck and it looks like a duck, it is a duck,” he said.”
As Joe Nocera rightly asks to end his column,
“Is this what passes for science when you oppose electronic cigarettes?”
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