Some of us have been worried in the past about Action on Smoking and Health’s attitude towards electronic cigarette.
While admitting that e-cigarettes were probably much better than smoking, the anti-smoking group has always been keen to push nicotine cessation aids as a better alternative.
(NRT aids, while perfectly safe, have proved no more effective than cold turkey at helping smokers to quit.)
Now a new release by the group seems to show a change of heart.
The release argues that:
- e-cigarettes are increasingly effective at delivering nicotine
- there is “little real world evidence of harm” – as they correctly point out, any harm there is in needs to be compared to the massive long term harm caused by smoking
- e-cigarettes should not be included in smoke-free laws
- there is little evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking
- there is likely to be little or no harm to non-users
In addition, the group picked up on a point which we’ve been hammering on this blog for four years, and which smokers find obvious:
[the] ability [of e-cigarettes] to satisfy the “hand to mouth” behavioural component that is not
sufficiently addressed in more traditional nicotine replacement therapies.
Attitude towards Regulation of E-Cigarettes
ASH continues to support regulation of e-cigarettes by the MHRA. Our concern, which is mirrored by many other retailers, is that legislation will take the form of a licensing which will effectively remove electronic cigarettes from the market and/or only allow electronic cigarettes to be sold on prescription or in pharmacies.
We also believe that current regulation, which is enforced by Trading Standards, is sufficient. (See: Who says e-cigarettes aren’t regulated?)
Other retailers have told us they are worried that the MHRA could follow the EU’s example and make e-cigarettes effectively useless by limiting the nicotine content to 0.4%. However, tobacco companies seem to be confident this won’t happen – today another large tobacco company bought up a large UK electronic cigarette retailer, following British Tobacco’s purchase not long ago.
Not everyone thinks regulation could be bad. When we interviewed Clive Bates, former director of Action on Smoking and Health and a strong supporter of tobacco harm reduction, he emphasised that there was “good regulation” as well as bad regulation. For example, good regulation could include tax advantages and the ability to market the e-cigarette more freely.
Incidentally, I can’t help thinking that Clive, who has been active recently campaigning for electronic cigarettes and THR, might have influenced the current leadership of ASH!