In the face of violence, an ancient Jewish writer looked into an idyllic future: ‘They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks’. In response to the devastation caused by tobacco, the manufacturers are now replacing their fags with shiny new vapes. Have we finally reached public health heaven?
Public Health England recently declared that e-cigarettes are likely 95% less harmful than their leafy forbears. Smoking continues to decline in general and evidence suggests that smokers who struggle to give up are switching to vapes to finally escape their addiction.
This idyllic image of swords and ploughshares may therefore be an appropriate metaphor. But it is galling for campaigners. Having worked against aggressive tactics by tobacco companies for decades, the idea that they might adapt for the good of public health and turn a tidy profit in reward angers many. Its just not fair!
But this is the cost of compromise and change.
On the other hand, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer has proposed that e-cigarettes be licensed as medicines. Manufacturers would then have to go through expensive and time consuming clinical trials. Naturally there is genuine uncertainty about how the body might react to long term vaping.
Tobacco wreaks so much disease and death. The manufacturers are shifting to something safer. The burden of evidence continues to justify this move. The interests of shareholders and public health officers seem to be converging. Public health heaven? Perhaps that’s pushing the metaphor too far, but so far so good.