Over the past year or so, electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as ‘e-cigarettes’, have achieved widespread visibility and growing popularity. These items, which produce nicotine via an inhaled mist, have caused no little amount of argument in public health circles, as well as their rise is accompanied by discussion about their advantages and potential harms. Interspersed with an analysis of current media coverage on e-cigarettes and the response of main-stream tobacco control and public health to these devices, this article examines the emergence of nicotine as both as an ‘addiction’ and a treatment for addiction.
We claim that by simply delivering nicotine in manner that resembles the visual scene and bodily pleasures of smoking, but without the harms of combustible tobacco, e-cigarettes emphasize the complicated status of nicotine as both a poison and remedy in contemporary public health and tobacco get a grip on. In result, they jeopardize the carefully drawn distinctions between ‘good’ and terrible’ kinds of nicotine.
In the recent movie The Tourist we first meet Johnny Depp’s character, Frank, through the eyes of Elise (Angelina Jolie), as he sits in a train carriage reading a spy novel and puffing on what appears to become a cigarette. For most audiences of the picture, this was their first glimpse of an electronic cigarette, or ‘e-cigarette’, a device, as Frank instantly tells Elise, that is “not a real smoke. It’s electronic. It delivers the same number of nicotine but the smoke is water vapour”.
Invented by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik in 2003, the e-cigarette was started by the Chinese electronics company Ruyan Technology three years after, and received its first international patent in 2007 (Wikipedia, 2011). E-cigarettes will have a passionate following amongst a little but growing number of users referred to as “vapers”. The appearance of the e-cigarette in
The Tourist marks a brand new visibility for your product – a visibility that is accompanied by debate about its advantages and potential harms. Opinion on e-cigarettes has rapidly polarised.
For harm reduction organizations like the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA) and also the Australian Tobacco Alternatives Consumer Association (ATACA), plus a increasing amount of smokers themselves, e-cigarettes have now been embraced as a healthier option to smoking cigarettes. Advocates also highlight their capability to provide a number of the non – nicotine rewards of smoking, including sensory stimulus, and throat and mouth feel. A few health agencies have followed suit and deemed e-cigarettes a “far safer” alternative to smoke (e.g. NZ Ministry of Health, 2011).
However most mainstream public health organizations have condemned these products, some prohibiting sales altogether (e.g. Health Canada, 2009) and the others characterizing them as “toxin” and warning the people to not use them (e.g. Queensland Health, 2011). For all these organizations, e-cigarettes signify the latest incarnation of the tobacco threat: an untested product together with the possibility to enslave ever greater numbers of people (especially impressionable youth) to a dangerous addiction. Despite the very fact that e-cigarettes comprise no tobacco (and in some instances, no nicotine), the World Health Organization has classified them as a tobacco product substantially over the lines of smokeless tobacco (WHO, 2011: 40). Initially, as a drug apparatus the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to assert jurisdiction over e-cigarettes; however, the US Court of Appeals overturned their judgement in December of 2010.
As A Result, the FDA is presently attempting to obtain jurisdiction over e-cigarettes as a tobacco product (Boen, 2011; Sullum, 2011). The European Union (EU) is likewise grappling with whether to regulate e-cigarettes as medical or tobacco products and services (Irish Central, 2011). The FDA and EU’s problem in classifying e-cigarettes reflects the ambiguous middle ground these goods take between medicinal kinds of nicotine (i.e. nicotine replacement therapy, or ‘NRT’) and smokeless tobacco.
This paper examines the reception of e-cigarettes and seeks to comprehend why conventional public health agencies and tobacco get a grip on advocates have been so fast to condemn these items. Our analysis necessitates a critical reading of a range of texts, including media reports, policy briefs from harm reduction organizations and health agencies, weblogs and vaper sites, journal articles and commentaries. Bill Godshall’s Tobacco Harm Reduction Update list serv,which supplies a weekly compilation of media coverage and policy developments regarding e-cigarettes (amongst other topics)
provided a vital resource in identifying literature,supplemented by searches of Google Scholar. Although we’ve attempted to capture the tenor of current debates about e-cigarettes, we make no claims to the comprehensiveness of our examination – an impossibility given the topicality of this problem along with the speed with which new developments are happening. Moreover, we haven’t restricted ourselves to literature on e-cigarettes, but have sought to find our examination inside a broader historical and cultural context, recognizing that current responses to e-cigarettes are inextricably bound up with older debates about nicotine and the concept of habit.
This article begins using an historical review of tobacco and nicotine’s distinctive relationship with all the notion of addiction, and the rise of medicinal nicotine being a treatment for tobacco dependence and its particular perceived relationship to other kinds of nicotine like smokeless tobacco. Following this contextualization, the second half of the paper focuses on the reception of e-cigarettes, which we propose cannot be reduced just towards the nature of those goods. Rather, a lot of the hostility e-cigarettes have engendered, we argue, stems from the instability these goods crystallize in the ideological distinctions drawn between nicotine as either a ‘poison’ or a ‘treatment’