by Carl V Phillips
CASAA’s Kristin Noll-Marsh just posted an excellent analysis of why it is a bad idea to try to argue that e-cigarettes should not be considered a tobacco product. If you are reading this post, you will definitely want to go read it.
For those who do not know, approximately once every five minutes in some forum somewhere, someone who is new to vaping or otherwise unfamiliar with the THR debate and regulatory issues declares that if e-cigarette advocates only pushed back against the categorization, or even the name “electronic cigarettes” itself, then… Well, actually I am not quite sure. Then something wonderful and positive would happen, though it is never quite clear what or why it would happen.
Noll-Marsh does a good job of explaining how if this succeeded, it would accomplish nothing in terms of improving regulatory prospects, and indeed is almost certain to make them worse. She also points out how e-cigarettes so obviously occupy the exact same niche as other tobacco products that it is perfectly accurate to call them tobacco products for any practical purpose. It is not even misleading about risk, since smokeless tobacco is the proof that smoke-free tobacco is not substantially harmful. (And for those who are merely obsessed with the literal meaning of words, every tobacco product contains part, but not all, of the tobacco plant, just like e-cigarettes do.)
She does not go into much detail about another good reason to not pursue this fight: It cannot be won. Regulators will declare e-cigarettes to be tobacco products if they want to — and if you are a vaper who lives somewhere this is happening (e.g., the USA), count your blessings, because the leading competing alternative is to regulate them as medicines.
As for changing the name “e-cigarettes”, there are several reasons why the current name is good and the proposed alternatives have serious flaws, but those are moot because the ship has long-since sailed on that one. I cannot think of any example where a political effort to change the name of a popular consumer product succeeded, other than with the intention of slandering the product (e.g., “alco-pop”) Do you really want “e-cigarettes” to be officially called ENDS? Because if the name were really put in play, that is the likely landing point.
Apart from some vague (and clearly incorrect) notion that somehow a re-categorization would lead to more consumer-friendly regulation, why is there so much interest in this? I think a lot of it comes from smokers learning to accept the characterization of themselves as pathetic or evil — a very typical pattern among those who are the victims of systematic abuse by those who hold power over them — and so wanting to declare, after switching to vaping, that they are no longer that. It is understandable, and if you need to personally declare that you no longer use tobacco because you use e-cigarettes, then you can do so (just do not expect most of the world to agree with you). But if instead you were to fight back against the self-perception that your abusers inflicted, and declare that you are a willing, knowledgeable, and happy tobacco user, you might feel better still. And if not for yourself, consider doing that for the good of the cause and others who practice or might practice THR. Because it seems that proud and happy self-declared tobacco product users, united rather than divided, are much more likely to have a positive influence than what — to the outside observer — mostly comes across as apologetic.