As an ex-smoker and longtime critic of the excesses of the anti-tobacco brigades, I welcome e-cigarettes to the marketplace and to the debate.
As a public health strategy, making people miserable because they have unhealthy addictions is pretty dubious. I hate seeing people inequitably taxed and forced to huddle outside in the cold because they happen to be addicted to nicotine. But their addiction imposes public health costs and secondhand smoke on the rest of us, so such policies are justified – and they help inspire people to quit.
But e-cigarettes provide the nicotine – and the look and feel and inhalation pleasure – of a cigarette without the tobacco smoke. They are addictive, but they don’t kill you and they don’t expose either you or those around you to toxic substances. Plus, they threaten to put the tobacco barons out of business. What’s not to like?
The issue has created a fissure between science-based public health advocates and anti-smoking moralists. Joe Nocera takes on the topic in today’s NYT.