Monday, 13 January 2014

E-cigarettes: A consumer controlled revolution?

The media coverage of e-cigarettes and vaping continues to be good here in Norway. Again, our friend Karl Erik Lund is in the spotlight, but an ethics professor also makes some good points. This article was in, one of the largest newspapers in Norway, on January the 5th:

The ban on e-cigs is unethical
The arguments on both sides are still the same, The Directorate of Health clings to their precautionary principles, while scientists rooting for the e-cigarette claims this gives hope that we can get rid of smoking once and for all. Bjørn Hofmann, professor of medical ethics from the University of Oslo says that science actually gives none of the sides support, as there is no empiric evidence on whether the e-cigarette will reduce or increase the damage. Well, I'm not agreeing with that, I feel there is a lot of research proving it will be reduced, as does Karl Erik Lund. But even if the evidence was not there, Hofman says that you always need to make trade-offs in health politics and the way I read it he's arguing our case and that the e-cigarette ban should be removed. When the swine flu epidemic was at it's worst the health department had to make the call on whether to use a vaccine that we really didn't know all the side-effects from. The main argument used was that the benefit of using the vaccine was bigger than the risk. He says that the fact that the e-cigarette COULD be harmful shouldn't really matter that much, as there is a lot of medical products with known and unknown side-effects on the market. So in other words, the ban on e-cigarettes is, by this logic, unethical!

Proof that parachutes work?
The professor says you need to consider how much empiric evidence you need to take measures in a case. He refers to an article published in the British Medical Journal from 2003, where the authors point out that there is no controlled, randomized study of whether you should use a parachute when you jump out of a plane. So how can we then be sure that using a parachute is the right thing to do. The point is, if you're too concerned with empiric evidence you'll end up jumping out of that plane without a parachute, or keep smoking cigarettes instead. And we can all agree that both will end in tragedy right?

A consumer controlled revolution?
Karl Erik Lund calls the e-cigarette a consumer controlled revolution. The pharmaceutical industry has long tried to steal the tobacco industry customers with nicotine chewing gum, inhalers and patches, but the consumers doesn't seem to want them. The e-cigarette on the other hand, has a much better chance to be a real competitor because the consumers want them, says Lund.

Well that of course applies only if they are not banned of course. And is Lund a bit naive here? I mean... a couple of questions pops up in my head at least: Isn't the market for nicotine chewing gum, inhalers and patches created by the tobacco industry? If these products actually worked, wouldn't that be bad for the pharmaceutical industry from an economical point of view? They would destroy their own market right? So are these two giants really competing... or cooperating?

(Comments are welcome :))


  1. Lol! I laugh only because the alternative would be to cry. It's so sad, isn't it, when you realize that so many equations can be reduced to one common denominator..... money.

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