There’s a basic problem we’ve got with this idea that we can rule the world, force it into our desired shape. Which is that we’re in a second best world. Plans don’t necessarily work out, people are ‘ornery and just won’t damn well do what they’re told. It’s, well, it’s a second best world:
It’s important to understand that we live in a second best world. As a grand idea sure, if every government made exactly the right decision at exactly the right time then life would be better. Now, everyone put a hand up who claims that every government is even capable of making that right decision? Really? Somalia? Venezuela? Zimbabwe? The opposition party in whatever election you’re just about to fight? None of us does believe that fallible human beings are going to make exactly that correct decision every time. Freidrich Hayek even gained his Nobel for proving that they never can have the necessary information to do so, even if they were the otherwise perfect rulers of the rest of us. We are, thus, in a second best world. That perfect solution isn’t available to us, and we’ve got to just rub along with what is possible.
Thus vaping. Perhaps it’s true that no one should ever touch the demon weed. But is that how to deal with the real world?
So, tobacco use. Does smoking kill? It most surely does, smoking cigarettes will take prematurely from this world some one-third of those who indulge. At least one-third. So, what would we like to do here? Insist upon that perfection where no one partakes of the tobacco leaf? Or get as close to doing no harm as we can? My answer would be that we should be going for harm reduction. Sure, no one has yet proven that vaping, or e-cigarettes, causes no harm. I don’t expect anyone will either, the drug nicotine itself is harmful. Yet, we really are very certain indeed that ingesting or inhaling nicotine along with steam is less harmful than doing so with the other few hundred carcinogens in the smoke from burnt tobacco. Thus, at this first stage, vaping is less harmful than full-on smoking.
So, therefore, we should allow vaping, obviously. But should we go further?
Vaping reduces the harm done by tobacco and nicotine — thus, banning it isn’t the way to make this world that better a place.
Well, if you believe the usual stuff from PHE about the costs of smoking to the NHS perhaps we should subsidize it? Smoking costs the NHS £y – therefore, if vaping reduces harm then perhaps we should subsidise it? The subsidy being £x, the costs to the NHS of £y being higher than the costs £z, smoking costs with vaping, even after we add £z and £ x to give the total costs of the vaping subsidy and the NHS costs of smoking with vaping?
I don’t btw, insist that the costs work out that way. I do, however, insist that that’s the right question to be asking. And that it isn’t being asked is what is wrong, isn’t it?