Accepted paper:

E-cigarettes: enlightened approach or new social and public health threat?


Sue Lewis (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

E-cigarette use is growing with belief and opinion driving debate on whether they are to be considered "good" or "bad". For smokers, e-cigarettes offer the opportunity to be socially acceptable again. Meanwhile, health professionals and policy-makers appear unsure whether to approve or disapprove.

Paper long abstract:

The use of e-cigarettes is growing. It is doing so in the face of established and scientifically-derived knowledge that smoking is bad for personal and public health, and resultant anti-smoking policies, but also argument from some commentators that smoking's role in individual and social lives has been overlooked by public health and tobacco control practitioners. The e-cigarette delivers a nicotine dose, without (as far as is known) any of the detrimental accompaniments associated with the traditional cigarette. In other words, it mimics "treatments" such as patches, offered by health practitioners to would-be ex-smokers as a harm reduction strategy and should perhaps, therefore, be immune to censure. But it also allows the smoker to engage, visibly and socially, in what has become a largely stigmatised activity. This is accompanied by a new language - smoking has become "vaping" - and opportunity to individualise one's equipment in ways increasingly closed to the regular tobacco smoker. Research evidence for or against e-cigarettes is still lacking and so the gap is being rapidly filled, from both sides of the argument, with stories of personal experience, opinion and belief. Drawing on published opinion pieces, responses from public health and policy-makers and taking inspiration from Scottish Enlightenment thought, this paper will ask if and how e-cigarettes might be an 'enlightened approach' or if they should be considered, at best, just one more route to the eventual elimination of tobacco and nicotine.

panel P08
Tobacco and Enlightenment