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Smoking

E-cigarettes aren’t risk-free, but still less harmful than cigarettes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 12:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 12:46am

For many cigarette smokers, quitting the habit is a fantasy. However, there are new alternatives to smoking that could turn that into a reality, unless governments get in the way.

Tobacco harm reduction is the idea that smokers should have access to products that meet their nicotine needs in ways that are less harmful than cigarettes. Smokers should not be limited to a single all-or-nothing option: smoke cigarettes or nothing.

New products, such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products, can deliver nicotine in less risky ways than combustible cigarettes. This doesn’t mean there is zero risk, but there is far less risk compared to smoking cigarettes.

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In a government-commissioned report, Public Health England estimated that e-cigarettes could be 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration is starting to embrace tobacco harm reduction. The New Zealand Ministry of Health recently announced that vaping and heated tobacco products can be sold in the country. Japan and South Korea are allowing citizens access to new and innovative alternatives to smoking.

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This is not to diminish reasonable concerns, such as seeking to limit the use of these products by children. However, these alternative products can be made available to smokers while addressing any legitimate concerns that might exist. Governments should ensure they don’t throw up needless legal obstacles that would prevent innovative products from being available to their citizens.

Daren Bakst, senior research fellow, Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation