E-cigarettes are pushed both as a healthier alternative to smoking and as a way to quit smoking. Certainly they are healthier than cigarettes. They contain nicotine but not the tars and other highly toxic substances in tobacco. But nicotine is highly addictive, so the long-term prospects of quitting might not be all that great.
A separate issue is the fact that a lot of young people are now vaping. It would be helpful to know how many of them starting on e-cigarettes would have begun with the real thing if the substitute weren’t available.
Then there is the issue of secondhand smoke. One big plus for e-cigarettes is that they produce only vapor, not the poison-laden smoke of cigarettes. So they would be less dangerous to non-smokers than real cigarettes, but how much less dangerous? That might be difficult to determine given the dangers of secondhand smoke have been so brazenly and shamelessly exaggerated.
And, please, let’s not ignore the issues of taxes, no matter how much lawmakers won’t want to talk about it. Despite all its anti-smoking efforts, governments at all levels have been highly dependent on the tax revenue collected from smokers.
As smoking has declined, that revenue has been greatly reduced, and lawmakers keep looking for alternative sources. E-cigarettes will be an obvious choice. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with taxing people’s vices — it’s a time-honored and justifiable practice. But let the lawmakers be honest about it.
Imagine the awful irony if lawmakers put so many taxes on e-cigarettes that some users are driven back to real cigarettes.