Anthropological thinking

I’m rescuing this post from the now restricted access part of my local Forum because it was linked to in this other post about anthropology

[Attitudes to e-cigarettes] is a fascinating subject, because it sorts the evidence based approach to policy from the anthropological like no other. The campaign group ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) are pretty good on the evidence

  • Electronic cigarettes are not cigarettes. They do not contain tobacco and using them is not smoking.
  • ASH, in line with the NICE guidance on Tobacco Harm Reduction, always recommends that quitting all forms of nicotine use is the best option for smokers.
  • However, for those who remain addicted to nicotine NICE guidance recommends the use of medicinally licensed nicotine containing products as an alternative to smoking or to cut down or for temporary abstinence to help reduce the harms of smoking.
  • NICE guidance cannot recommend the use of unlicensed nicotine containing products but many smokers are finding unlicensed electronic cigarettes helpful. Research by ASH shows that their use has grown threefold in the last two years from 700,000 to 2.1 million users.
  • Electronic cigarettes are proving more attractive to smokers than NRT1, while providing them with a safer alternative to cigarettes. There is evidence that they can be effective in helping smokers’ quit and little evidence that they are being used by never smokers.
  • The number of children and young people regularly using electronic cigarettes remains very low and their use is almost entirely amongst those who are current or ex-smokers. This is a similar pattern to that found in jurisdictions such as the USA.
  • ASH supports enhanced regulation to ensure the safety and reliability of electronic cigarettes and to prevent their promotion to non-smokers and children.
  •  However, in the absence of evidence of significant harm to bystanders, ASH does not support the inclusion of electronic cigarettes in smoke free laws which would completely prohibit their use in enclosed public places.

ASH Breifing, June 2014

There’s also an official blog from PHE (Public Health England), which is largely evidence based. Because they do contain a poison – nicotine – they have to be regulated, but under which regulatory framework? That for tobacco, or for medicines, viewing e-cigarettes in the same way as nicotine patches?

E-cigarettes and harm reduction: where are we now and what next?

Whichever regluatory framework is chosen, the view is that we should “denormalise rather than renormalise smoking”, fearing the “potential impact on children and young people”, even though “Current evidence of use by young people in the UK does not support the hypothesis that e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway into smoking”. However, if we are talking about taking an amount of nicotine, which is not going to harm the person breathing it in, let alone anyone one else in the room, what is the problem with this being seen as normal? I don’t think it would be any more abnormal than the habit of talking out loud while walking around with no one else around

which when it started I found rather bizarre

and the Daily Mail found carcinogenic.

Maybe it’s just that we prefer not to have to share public space with people who aren’t like us.

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