Jacob Sullum

So why the strange resistance to e-cigarettes, which contain no tobacco and generate no smoke, among people concerned about the health hazards of tobacco and smoking? Like other activists and some politicians, Azzarelli claims to be worried that e-cigarettes will make the conventional variety seem glamorous again. "We're very concerned that what (was) becoming passe - smoking -- is now coming back," she says.

In other words, Azzarelli and her fellow activists worry that a product whose main selling point is avoiding the scary hazards and offensive stench of smoking somehow will make smoking more appealing. That fear seems implausible, to say the least, and there is no evidence to support it.

E-cigarette alarmists like to cite CDC survey data indicating that "e-cigarette use among students doubled in the last year," as 40 state attorneys general noted last month in a letter to the FDA. But that increase was in the number of students reporting any use in the previous month, which may reflect nothing more than experimentation.

The survey provides no evidence that such experimentation leads to smoking. To the contrary, as Siegel points out, nine out of 10 teenagers who tried e-cigarettes were already smokers, meaning the trend that the attorneys general consider a public health emergency may instead portend successful harm reduction. Likewise with adults: Survey data indicate that e-cigarette use is overwhelmingly concentrated about current and former smokers.

It's in the shift from the former category to the latter that the disease-reducing potential of e-cigarettes lies. Impeding that transition by imposing arbitrary restrictions on e-cigarette advertising, sales and flavors would be a literally fatal error.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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