Recent fine article in SpikedOnline illustrates how the lack of evidence for the effects of 2nd hand smoke is becoming more apparent even as intrusions into smokers’ lives increase.
Many of us in tobacco harm reduction go from either being unsupportive of or uninterested in smokers legitimate claims to their habit. On first blush, we should support any forces that move smokers in the direction of safer alternatives. However, to do so is to create the conditions which argue against any healthier initiatives.
Basic to harm reduction is the conception of the autonomous self motivated individual, a person worthy of respect and considered to be a reasonable judge of what is best for them. They are the person who is responsible to make the choices that better their own lives; no one else can know the context within which those choices take place. Only they intimately know the stresses in their lives, and the best means of relieving those stresses.
For some people, the best relief is a cigarette. To smoke that cigarette in the sure knowledge of health risks is a choice they might make.
Harm reduction is also based on choice. The idea is that the drug user (the smoker) is not only aware of health risks but that they are aware of safer alternatives. As intelligent individuals, tobacco harm reduction suspects that many who are given a choice between relatively safe sources of nicotine like ecigarettes or smokeless tobacco will freely move to one of these sources. And of course some won’t (that’s the way choice works).
The point is that the current paternalism that tries to remove the choice to smoke also removes the choice to move to safer alternatives by blocking products, blocking information and by actively misrepresenting these options. Smokers are treated as though they do not have the brains to process the very simple concept that safer options exist.
In tobacco harm reduction presenting those alternatives starts by acknowledging the intelligence of smokers. Ultimately whether or not you smoke, or whether or not you choose healthier alternatives is less important than whether or not you have the right to make that decision for yourself.