The debate rages on about electronic cigarettes, but what is this fight really over. Many public health organizations and federal agencies site the fact that nicotine needs approval as a safe and effective quit smoking aid. But why? As an adult, is it not your decision to use nicotine, just as it is to use caffeine? Nicotine has not been shown to cause cancer. Yes it is addictive, but so are many other things to many people. If we take public health out of the equation, which is exactly what you do when you remove the tobacco, then what is the real issue here? Enter the nicotine prohibitionists.
The same health organizations that claim it is all about public health believe all nicotine products should be a smoking cessation aid. If a certain product is shown to get people to quit smoking, then great, but it is still unclear as to why a nicotine product needs to have this intended use. Can’t I use nicotine because I like it? Can’t I drink coffee because I like it? Can’t I drink beer because I like it? When we start controlling the reason a product is on the market under the umbrella of public health aren’t we attempting to control behavior? To deal with stress, which is a public health concern, am I not able to choose my outlet?
Regulation is important. Kids shouldn’t drink coffee, or beer, or use nicotine gum (which is funny because what is more “kid” then chewing gum?). Regulation is also important to make sure products are not mislabeled and that manufacturing processes follow certain health and safety guidelines.
But regulation to make sure nicotine helps people quit smoking is like trying to make sure all guns are able to protect their owners. They may do just that, or they may be used for fun at the range. Or they may be used to hunt. Or they may be used to collect. People have different wants and needs. Provided the product follows the marketing, labeling, and safety regulations what does it matter why someone uses it. I’ll tell you why: Because when there are no more smokers, it will be much easier to eliminate nicotine altogether. Next up: Caffeine.