Harm reduction at the crossroads: the case of e-cigarettes

Am J Prev Med. 2014 Oct;47(4):505-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2014.06.022. Epub 2014 Aug 3.


The recent popularity of electronic (e)-cigarettes and their rapid uptake by youth has ignited the debate about their role as a harm-reduction strategy. Harm reduction in the context of tobacco control contends that in societies that have achieved considerable success in curbing smoking, leaving the remaining hard-to-quit smokers with an abstinence-only option is unfair, especially when less-harmful choices are available. On one side of the debate are those who call for caution in endorsing such products until critical pieces of evidence about their safety and potential become available, whereas the other side argues that waiting until all questions about e-cigarettes are answered is dogma driven. In this piece, I try to discuss the unresolvable contention between harm-reduction goals of offering safer options to smokers, and those of e-cigarette makers of being commercially viable and profitable.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Commerce / economics
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / adverse effects
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / economics
  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems / statistics & numerical data*
  • Harm Reduction*
  • Humans
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Prevention*