Vaping is saving lives, American think tank argues

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American think tank The Reason Foundation urges the Hong Kong government to adopt a rational and lenient policy towards vaping instead of condemning the city’s 600,000-plus smokers to death.

The possibility of a total vaping ban in Hong Kong gets the Vice President of Reason Foundation, Julian Morris, all steamed up. Last week, he presented a new research paper, The Vapour Revolution: How bottom-up innovation is saving lives, at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Co-written by Dr Amir Ullah Khan and published by American think tank The Reason Foundation, the evidence suggests the Hong Kong government may be putting the lives of Hong Kong’s over 600,000 smokers at risk by denying them a less harmful option to help quit.

The report cites previous research showing that, when legally available, vaping displaces smoking – it does not promote it. Morris raised the Holy Grail of the anti-smoking movement – the prospect of a total elimination of smoking within the next 30 years. Such a switch could save 8 of 10 billion life-years currently at risk from smoking. As he said, “vaping is far, far safer than smoking — and has the potential to replace it, if consumers are given the choice.”


Where there’s no smoke…

Since smoke is a defining characteristic of a cigarette and since vape products emit no smoke, Mr Morris says the label “e-cigarette” is misleading and avoids it. He says that vape products, including those that contain nicotine, “should be classified as consumer products.” Rather than banned, such devices should, “be easily accessible and seen as an alternative to cigarettes.”

Some governments have decided to impose bans or strict regulations on nicotine-containing vape products, citing an absence of long-term research data on how vaping impacts users. However, Mr Morris argues that the available evidence indicates that vaping is far, far safer than smoking. He points out that many people try to quit smoking but fail and suggests that more relaxed regulations on vape products could allow many of those smokers a much safer alternative.

Drawing examples from countries such as the US, France and UK, where vape products can be bought in almost every convenience and drug store, Mr Morris’ research focused on why we need vaping as an option, subject to minimal regulation and taxation. Mr Morris also said that “governments should avoid imposing specific taxes on vape products. Since they are far safer than cigarettes, there is no good reason to impose taxes that might discourage people from switching.”

He stated that in countries where vape products have been regulated as consumer products there has been rapid innovation and as a result,  “The quality of the devices and liquids have been improving and their cost falling. This has contributed to a significant increase in use of vape products. At the same time, there is very robust evidence that the vast majority of people who regularly use vape devices are reducing or quitting smoking.”

Mr Morris believed there is a need to allow innovation and for people not to be treated as criminals for trying to improve their lives or fight an addiction. Vaping enthusiasts have exhibited a constant appetite for technological advances that bring improvements in quality and safety, and for variety. Innovation has led to products that better suit individual needs.

Julian Morris concluded: “Hong Kong currently prohibits the sale of nicotine-containing vape products. But it permits far deadlier cigarettes. That makes no sense. If people are allowed to vape with nicotine — a substance that is not classified as a carcinogen as is not a significant cause of heart disease — many will switch from a product that is likely to cut their life expectancy by 10 years to a product that might, at most, cut it by a few months. As a result, the lives of hundreds of thousands of HK residents will be extended and improved.”