Monday 2 January 2012


Murray Laugsen writes in The Listener about measures that could help folks quit smoking. The government claims to want to eradicate smoking by 2025. What helps folks quit? Giving them substitutes that are less harmful. A smoker has a better chance of quitting if he complements quitting either with smoking low-nicotine cigarettes or with e-cigarette inhalers which deliver nicotine but without the other substances that form the bulk of smoking's health risks.

So policy should then encourage e-cigarettes and, perhaps, place less tax on low-nicotine cigarettes to encourage their use as part of quitting.

But MedSafe last year banned the sale of the nicotine cartridges; those wishing to use them to quit have to import them for personal use. Pharmacies had made claims about the cartridges' effectiveness as a cessation aid; that made them a medical device.

And less risky alternatives, like Swedish "snus", described by the Royal College of Physicians as the least risky tobacco product, are also here banned. 

My best working model of the current situation: anti-tobacco zealots get to the top of the Ministry of Health and hate tobacco and nicotine more than they care about harm reduction. And folks selling cigarettes don't like substitutes. Then it's just Bootleggers and Baptists. But if anybody has a better model, I'd love to hear it. The problem for my model is that even SFC seems to have come around on e-cigarettes, if not on snus. Inertia? 


  1. You may want to look at Robin Hanson and his stuff about status. Not so much as a replacement, but as a supplement on the "Baptists" side, as an explanation of why people "hate tobacco and nicotine more than they care about harm reduction".

  2. there is no good news about giving up addictive drugs, it is cold turkey, prepare self, be strong, you are beside yourself

  3. @Fnord: You're entirely right. The more smoking is cast as a low-caste activity, along with being obese, the more will policy resemble punishment.