Should E-Cigarettes be a Licensed, Regulated Product?

With electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigs) increasing in popularity across the developing world as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, the question whether they should be a licensed and regulated medical product has arisen.  Initially, it was thought these e-cigs posed a risk to health, but today medical experts and scientists have realised that there’s little evidence to suggest e-cigarettes are harmful to health, but plenty of associated benefits for those switching from regular cigarettes.

The Pros

Should e-cigs be regulated for use as a medical device?  There are votes for and against such a decision.  Of course, by regulating the industry we would see an increase in consumer safety as well as more detailed product labelling, reducing and eventually eliminating fake and dangerous e-liquid from the market. There would be controls in place to restrict the use and development of e-cigarettes, as we don’t want to spread the message to children that smoking is an acceptable and normal habit.  However, there are those who strongly oppose these arguments and fail to see a positive side to regulating e-cigarettes. They claim that this ruling could have severe, if unintended consequences for the consumer. This would most probably send the consumer back to regular cigarettes due to the spike in costs.

The Cons

If e-cigarettes become a licensed product, it’s thought that sales of traditional cigarettes and smoking cessation devices will drop sharply – e-cigs are a direct competitor, and for many they are seen as a healthier option, as they don’t contain tobacco / harmful chemicals.  Then there’s the moral issue at hand – many believe that e-cigarettes normalise smoking, promoting it and providing a gateway for children to take up smoking.  This idea is largely dismissed by experts, and hopefully strict controls on the development and use of e-cigs would prevent this from ever happening.  Any improvements made to e-cigarettes would be prohibitively expensive – in fact, new applications for licensing would mean that products would take far longer to reach market, pushing prices up and making e-cigs a less affordable and less attractive option.  Regular Cigarettes would then become a cheaper and more popular option for most consumers.

So, What Now?

In conclusion, because e-cigarettes are currently a recreational product, and because they compete directly with traditional cigarettes (which are harmful for health) – offering an alternative which is thought by many to be healthier – a move to regulate the e-cig market could be detrimental to public health.  E-cigarette manufacturers would no longer be able to compete with traditional cigarettes on price or availability, and the electronic cigarette would become an option which was not affordable for most people, or one which was not readily available.

In addition, many of those wishing to quit smoking traditional cigarettes and move to e-cigs would find themselves unable to afford to do so, and this could have disastrous consequences on public health, leading to increased incidences of smoking related disease and death.  The general opinion is that those considering regulating e-cigarettes as a medicinal device should think long and hard why? With so many affordable e-cig devices and options becoming available on the market for smokers to choose from, it’s a possibility that over the next few years, the number of people smoking traditional cigarettes will drop, leading to lower incidences of death and disease from smoking in the UK.  Regulating e-cigarettes is a good thing, regulating them as a medicinal product is not the best decision for the government to make at all.

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