Nicotine, at the dosage levels smokers seek, is a relatively innocuous drug commonly delivered by a highly harmful device, cigarette smoke. An intensifying pandemic of disease caused or exacerbated by smoking demands more effective policy responses than the current one: demanding that nicotine users abstain. A pragmatic response to the smoking problem is blocked by moralistic campaigns masquerading as public health, by divisions within the community of opponents to present policy, and by the public-health professions antipathy to any tobacco-control endeavours other than smoking cessation. Yet, numerous alternative systems for nicotine delivery exist, many of them far safer than smoking. A pragmatic, public-health approach to tobacco control would recognize a continuum of risk and encourage nicotine users to move themselves down the risk spectrum by choosing safer alternatives to smoking--without demanding abstinence.