Nicotine control: E-cigarettes, smoking and addiction

Int J Drug Policy. 2012 May;23(3):242-7. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2012.01.006. Epub 2012 Feb 23.


Background: Over the past year or so, electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as 'e-cigarettes', have achieved widespread visibility and growing popularity. These products, which deliver nicotine via an inhaled mist, have caused no small amount of controversy in public health circles, and their rise has been accompanied by energetic debate about their potential harms and benefits.

Methods: Interspersed with an analysis of current media coverage on e-cigarettes and the response of mainstream tobacco control and public health to these devices, this article examines the emergence of nicotine as both as an 'addiction' and a treatment for addiction.

Results: We argue that by delivering nicotine in way that resembles the visual spectacle and bodily pleasures of smoking, but without the harms of combustible tobacco, e-cigarettes highlight the complex status of nicotine as both a poison and remedy in contemporary public health and tobacco control.

Conclusion: In consequence, e-cigarettes jeopardize the carefully drawn distinctions between 'good' and 'bad' forms of nicotine.

MeSH terms

  • Electronics*
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Tobacco Use Cessation Devices*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / prevention & control*


  • Nicotine