O, Canada: Why stand in the way of e-cigarettes, harming smokers?

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Canadian tobacco expert weighs in on the hypothetical risks and vast potential benefits of e-cigarettes with the goal of spreading sound science information and evidence about e-cigarettes. Canada could certainly use the help.

ByeBye cigs, Hello e-cigsACSH friend, tobacco expert and Canadian professor of public policy at the University of Ottawa, Dave Sweanor, wrote an op-ed whose goal is to promote the spread of sound-science based information and evidence about electronic cigarettes (e-cigs). This is especially important in Canada, where the wise-heads at Health Canada have determined that e-cigs are OK above the 49th parallel as long as they do not contain nor provide nicotine! Well, in fact it s sort-of OK to secure nicotine in appropriately-concentrated and flavored solutions, but not along with the devices themselves. Canadians do this via the internet and/or travel a relatively short distance to the U.S.A. to get their addictive drug of choice, which is most helpful in assisting cessation on long-term smokers.

Why this wrong-headed policy exists is a puzzlement for Prof. Sweanor, as it is for anyone with common sense and a knowledge of the relative risks of smoking vs. vaping, (as the use of e-cigs is known) It s especially poignant in the face of the 40,000 Canadians who die each year from smoking, according to the op-ed piece.

Here are some of the piece s highlights:

We ve known for decades that if we can deliver the nicotine without the process of combustion, we could essentially end the epidemic. The readily-available and government-regulated alternatives the nicotine patch, chewing gum, lozenges have not had nearly the desired impact in the drive to quit, says Sweanor.

While some allege to fear the dangers of vaping, Sweanor equates the difference between vaping and smoking to getting a caffeine fix from a cup of coffee instead of lighting up tea leaves. To those who fear that the makers of e-cigs are merely Big Tobacco in disguise, he notes that Private enterprise is looking at this and seeing an $800 billion global market for cigarettes, and most smokers don t want to be smoking cigarettes. So they re thinking, if we could give smokers what they want, without them having to die from doing it, we could get really rich, and we d save a whole lot of lives and billions of dollars (in health care costs) and maybe even win a Nobel Prize while we re at it.

He goes on to assert that the stance taken by Health Canada in imposing a ban on the products is an absolutist approach. The same challenges have been there with illicit drugs, alcohol, venereal diseases, diet, says Sweanor. Smokers are well-aware of the horrendous problem caused by cigarette smoke, and if people could get nicotine in a way that is massively less harmful than smoking cigarettes, then we need policies that give people reasonable alternatives.

Dave is right-on-target, of course. A sound-science approach, as opposed to the know-nothing, fear-mongering baseless attacks on this groundbreaking technology fomented by all the public health agencies and NGOs, is the way to go to help smokers quit and save millions of lives over the long-haul.