More than anything else, what distinguishes e-cigarettes from other nicotine replacement therapies is that vaping can be pleasurable and fun. Patches and gums are boring, officially approved, handed down from the sterile hallways of GlaxoSmithKline and the Food and Drug Administration to fix something that’s wrong with people. E-cigarettes give them something to enjoy. This is also exactly what makes anti-smoking activists so uncomfortable.
I understand the reasoning behind their discomfort. When scientists convincingly exposed the dangers of cigarettes in the 1950s, it became clear that the most popular form of tobacco consumption was in fact a deadly scourge. Educational campaigns, taxes, and other measures helped lower American smoking rates from their midcentury peak, falling to around 15 percent of adults in the present day. Even so, smoking continues to be linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, which means that reducing the use of combustible cigarettes is both a significant public health victory and an ongoing challenge of great importance.
But warning smokers about the harm of the products has, over the decades, morphed into a campaign to stigmatize both the act of smoking and smokers themselves, banishing them from public life entirely.