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ISSN: 2450-5927
Journal of Health Inequalities
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vol. 5
Book review

Regulating tobacco consumption or nicotine addiction? A review of “The Regulation of E-cigarettes”, edited by Lukasz Gruszczynski

Margherita Melillo

Department of International Law and Dispute Resolution, Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European, and Regulatory Procedural Law, European University Institute, Luxembourg
J Health Inequal 2019; 5 (2): 195-197
Online publish date: 2019/12/30
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E-cigarettes have had quite some success among consumers. However, we do not yet know the exact nature and extent of the risks they pose. In the absence of definitive scientific guidance, how should regulators respond to this new public health challenge? Should they ban e-cigarettes, or should they allow them on the market? And, if allowed, should they treat them as traditional cigarettes, as medical products, or as sui generis products?
“The regulation of e-cigarettes”, edited by Lukasz Gruszczynski, is a timely and important review of these and other complex regulatory discussions. The book steps into a debate that has become particularly divisive and controversial. When confronted with scientific uncertainty, public health and environmental regulations often require difficult choices, and can spur intense debates [1-3]. Intense debates can easily become heated in a field like that of tobacco control, which has already experienced decades of well-documented lies by the tobacco industry, as well as attempts to promote misleading “safer” products like light or low-tar cigarettes [4-6]. The book acknowledges this context and does not aim to offer easy solutions. Rather, it seeks to unearth and explore the regulatory challenges posed by e-cigarettes, with a view of reflecting on the experience of this first decade of regulation.
The book offers a multi-faceted and comprehensive analysis of the regulation of e-cigarettes. The first part is devoted to examining the broader overarching questions, with one chapter on the role of e-cigarettes in the history of tobacco control (by Mateusz Zatoński and Allan M. Brandt) and another one reviewing the latest scientific studies on the risks posed by this new product (by Charlie A. Smith, Aleksandra Herbeć, and Lion Shahab). These chapters offer two different perspectives. While the first chapter argues that the history of tobacco control suggests proceeding with caution before embracing any innovation, the second chapter gives e-cigarettes more of a green light, submitting that the limited available scientific evidence already shows that they are “significantly safer” than traditional cigarettes. The two perspectives are not opposed. Rather, they should be read as complementary: even if e-cigarettes could be “significantly safer” than traditional cigarettes (a finding which is not consensual within the scientific community [7, 8]), the history of tobacco control warrants caution and, most importantly,...

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