Vaping isn’t perfectly safe but…

VIEWPOINT

I understand why people don’t care about vaping and public policy.

If you’re not a smoker and haven’t experienced some of the costs of smoking in your own life—say, a relative dying young from lung cancer—it’s easy to just ignore it and laugh about the people who keep hammering on about it.

Those who oppose vaping because “it looks like smoking” are missing the point. It is probably because it resembles smoking that it works.

Users put it with their hands to their mouths and produce vapour that looks like smoke, while giving them the nicotine kick.

They don’t have to quit doing any of this, but the harmful cigarette smoke with its tar and noxious gases is absent.

Nowadays, the more I’ve learned, the more I think that vaping and related products might be one of the easiest ways to improve people’s lives we have.

It’s important to understand that we live in a second-best world. You see, banning something that is bad for people can indeed work, but only if they don’t want it very much.

If they do desire, then it is risk management that is required, a look at relative risks and problems, not an insistence upon a perfection that cannot be achieved.

So, tobacco use. Does smoking kill? It most surely does, smoking cigarettes will take prematurely from this world some one-third of those who indulge. At least one-third.

So, what would we like to do here? Insist upon that perfection where no one partakes of the tobacco leaf? Or get as close to doing no harm as we can?

My answer would be that we should be going for harm reduction. Sure, no one has yet proven that vaping, or e-cigarettes, causes no harm. I don’t expect anyone will either, the drug nicotine itself is harmful.

But let’s be real here. We’ve all played around and dissolved metal objects in Coca-Cola, it’s pretty potent as well. Not to mention that it also contains caffeine, which also has addictive qualities. But you don’t see Coca-Cola facing any heavy scrutiny unlike vape.

Plus, anyone who buys vape can read the label: CONTAINS NICOTINE, AN ADDICTIVE CHEMICAL. Feigning ignorance would be akin to consumers blaming the Coca-Cola company for the sugar content in drinks because the buyer didn’t read the label.
We really are very certain indeed that ingesting or inhaling nicotine along with steam is less harmful than doing so with the other few hundred carcinogens in the smoke from burnt tobacco.

Thus, at this very first stage, vaping is less harmful than full-on smoking. Well, if harm is reduced, then they are indeed selling harm reduction, aren’t they?

The basic point is really easy enough for anyone to understand: human beings rather like the effects of nicotine and vaping is about 5 per cent as dangerous or less as a manner of ingesting nicotine as the other popular method, smoking tobacco.

Being able to abolish 95 pct of the damage done to health by a product seems like a pretty good idea to us but there are those out there who disagree, unfortunately.

I know this doesn’t end the conversation, of course it doesn’t. The most convincing part is that we all should be against vaping in the name of children.

I’m not sure how many children are vaping but I’m very sure that most vapers are adults, many times more than secondary, primary and kindergarten students. Whatever root causes of these problems, it is doubtful that the government can solve them by further prohibitions.

Many of the bad behaviors of children are already forbidden by law. So what? But the truth is that I know that if the children are going to do something as stupid as committing so much of their money to that sort of activity, vaping is the way to go.

Everything we know about vaping tells us that, yes, there are two effects going on as there near always are in anything about humans. Some who would never have smoked do vape. Some who would have, or did, smoke now only vape.

What we want to know here is, what’s the real effect? Those who move down in harm from tobacco to vaping hugely outweigh those travelling in the opposite direction.

In the end, what I suspect people object to about vaping is the pleasure it gives. What if somebody made nicotine addiction really safe, they worry, so there was no longer any reason to argue against it, eh? What then?

As a medical doctor once joked to me, “People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar.”

Vaping is the perfect example of a voluntary innovation derived from free enterprise that delivers better human health, at no cost to the taxpayer, and no inconvenience to society and causes pleasure.

I neither smoke nor vape and have no financial interest in either, but I wish it every success.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.