The American Surgeon General published the very first government report linking smoking and ill health fifty years ago. The report also demanded that the American government take acceptable remedial action to reduce the damage brought on by smoking.

Ever since then the amount of Americans who illuminate has fallen from 42% to 18% and then in some states the amount of regular smokers can almost be counted in single figures. Similar reductions have occurred elsewhere. Nearly half the UK population smoked in 1974. Now, under a quarter do. The figures around australia are even healthier.

This is extremely fantastic news because smoking causes a number of different diseases and it is the key reason for preventable deaths in numerous countries. Indeed, smoking could have killed as much as 100m people in the twentieth century and also the World Health Organisation estimates that this figure for the modern day might be a mind-boggling 1 billion.

About half a century ago another significant “smoking related” event happened: the first electronic cigarette was patented. This is a device that produced vapour from tobacco without combustion. For most decades “vaping” remained a minority activity. But within the last several years these not-quite-so newfangled nicotine delivery devices have become rather popular. And concern has become raised over their use and particularly uptake among younger people. While figures from Ash advise a negligible variety of vape pen mods, a newly released US-based study found that the proportion of middle and high school students in the usa who had ever used an e-cigarette greater than doubled between 2011-2012. Some analysts have even predicted that vaping could become very popular than smoking in a decade.

Modern e-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporise nicotine for inhalation. They normally include a cartridge containing liquid nicotine along with a heating element created to produce an aerosol. Many also include flavourings like menthol – a well known fact that has been criticised on the grounds that flavourings could make e-cigarettes more appealing to children.

Although vaping (and passive vaping) may well be safer than smoking (and passive smoking) a number of toxicological analyses have demostrated that e-cigarettes contain many dangerous chemicals. The great thing is that e-cigarettes are primarily employed by people being a popular quitting smoking aid. But it’s not even close to clear how effective e-cigarettes will be in helping men and women to stop smoking in the long term. More worryingly, some research indicates that a number of “never smokers” have tried vaping. This is of particular concern because e-cigarettes could work as a “gateway drug” to conventional cigarettes.

The relative insufficient evidence regarding the safety, effectiveness and ultimate impact of e-cigarettes has triggered the adoption of radically different methods to the import, production, sale, distribution and advertising of those devices. Some countries, like Argentina, effectively prohibited them. But most jurisdictions allow e-cigarettes to be sold and consumed subjected to varying degrees of regulation. The EU, for instance, is taking a somewhat hard line, yet it is unclear at this time what impact these new rules may have.

Ethically speaking, it might seem smart to be skeptical. E-cigarettes may well not represent a modern day Trojan horse, nevertheless the recent interest shown by tobacco companies during these devices should provide us with all pause for thought. This does not necessarily mean that vaping should be entirely proscribed. Quite besides the fact that our liberty rights dictate otherwise, there is, as noted above, good reason to believe that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than regular cigarettes so the net influence on health (and longevity) could very well htkcbf positive.

But due to the serious risk that vaping might re-glamourise smoking, especially among the young, a cautious regulatory approach is warranted. This will include a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to children along with a The Big Apple-style ban on vaping in public indoor spaces and private offices. It also seems eminently sensible to set up regulations to ensure the marketing of e-cigarettes is fixed to current smokers.

Many will complain this too many restrictions on the sale and consumption is going to be counter-productive. Some experts have even claimed that quality control regulation is, essentially, all that is required, and this vaping could make smoking redundant. But this approach seems overly lax. In the end, there’s (usually) no vapour without fire.

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