Can We Reduce Harm through Innovative Nicotine Delivery Systems?

By Elle Alexander

“There is evidence that gums, patches, and sprays work, but they don’t work well enough. And early evidence suggests that because e-cigarettes reinforce the physical movement of smoking, they can enhance tobacco cessation, but we don’t have all the information yet. We have to continue doing the research and publishing data to demonstrate that they’re helpful.”

 -Richard Carmona, former Surgeon General of the United States. Science, 2014.

On the streets of New York, you see more and more people with e-cigs and other nicotine delivery products. Aside from the lack of smell that tobacco cigarettes leave behind, e-cigs and other heated nicotine delivery products offer tremendous opportunity for reducing harm from tobacco use. The Tobacco Atlas documents that tobacco killed nearly 6 million people in 2011, and in the US about 45 million Americans smoke tobacco. Disease and deaths from tobacco are entirely preventable, and reducing harm is an area that needs continued focus. E-cigs are an opportunity to shift those addicted to nicotine to less harmful products.

E-cigarettes have ignited a debate in the public health community and within the broader public media. Reports have been released highlighting dangers including marketing to children with candy flavors and underage sales. These reports reinforce the need for an industry wide Company Code of Conduct that ensures companies will adhere to a set of standards for product quality, safety and targeting the adult market with restrictions on flavors and sales to children.

Nicotine delivery products offer a rare opportunity to reduce harm from tobacco use if regulations made around the products spur innovation while ensuring product safety and quality. We must not forget that the alternative is to continue with tobacco use, products which are known to kill at least half of users.

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