Vapers Should Embrace Smokeless Tobacco and Heat-Not-Burn

A guest column from Reason Foundation Senior Fellow Brian Fojtik


Tobacco control groups, government bureaucrats and too many politicians seem intent on destroying what British addiction expert David Nutt called the “greatest health advance since vaccinations” and instead keep smokers smoking and dying.

Perhaps the only reason they haven’t yet succeeded is because vapers, who often lived for years as shamed smokers, have finally done what their families, friends and government have insisted they do for years – quit smoking. Unlike current smokers who have been politically marginalized after being attacked and shamed for decades, and thus hesitant to fight for “smokers’ rights,” vapers are standing up and fighting for their right to buy, sell and use products that they believe responsible for saving their lives.

Groups like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and the American Cancer Society seem completely oblivious to credible science that demonstrates vaping is a far safer alternative than smoking. These groups fail to understand or embrace the reality that removing smoke from the delivery of nicotine, removes along with it almost all the likelihood of smoking-related lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and COPD that destroys the quantity and quality of smokers’ lives.

These groups aren’t fighting to improve health. They aren’t interested in saving smokers’ lives.

These groups aren’t fighting to improve health. They aren’t interested in saving smokers’ lives. No, they are engaged in an ideological and moralistic fight like apocalyptic TV preachers who themselves claim to be able to determine which of us is fit for heaven and which for hell. They’ve learned and perfected unethical tactics they aggressively employ against smokers and the companies that provide them with any nicotine products. Over the last decade or more, they’ve conveniently and deceitfully conflated terms like smoking, tobacco and nicotine to deliberately deceive the public, the media and the government to deceptively alter their method of attack on smoking to fit smokeless tobacco products, new heat-not-burn products, and vapor products.

Too often, politically unsophisticated vapers get intellectually spun to a point where vapers themselves begin to behave like tobacco control zealots. Too often, some vapers spout off against smokeless tobacco, heat-not-burn products or vapor products manufactured by tobacco companies as inherently evil. It’s not scientifically valid or intellectually consistent. It’s a big mistake and vapers should be careful not to fall into that trap.

Vapers and vape advocates understand better than most that it’s not tobacco or nicotine that kills people, but breathing in the products of combustion from the end of a lit cigarette for decades that shortens many smokers’ lives. Vapers are often asked “What is the best vapor product to use?” Thankfully, many vapers have become sophisticated enough to reply that the “best product is the one that works best for you.” Vapers should expand that to include other non-combustible products that may help a smoker – and be careful not to discriminate against those who find different options that may work best for them.


Perhaps the greatest long-term scientific basis to support vaping doesn’t come from the study of e-cigarettes at all, but from those who have studied and reported on the health benefits realized in Sweden as many smokers transitioned away from combustible cigarettes, and instead began using the traditional Swedish smokeless tobacco called “snus” to consume nicotine. Continuing to consume nicotine over the long-term and continuing to use tobacco in non-combustible forms over decades has allowed the Swedes to dramatically reduce smoking rates and over time concurrently reduce the smoking-related diseases that kill some smokers prematurely or diminish quality of life.

Not only should we learn from and use the Swedish example to advocate for e-cigarettes and vapor products, but we should learn from the tactics employed in Europe against snus and in the United States against traditional smokeless tobacco products like Copenhagen, Skoal and Grizzly. Dr. Brad Rodu from the University of Louisville, Canadian lawyer and health policy expert David Sweanor, and former Director of Action on Smoking and Health-UK Clive Bates have been leading the fight to allow smokers access to information and access to safer vapor products for years. But Rodu, Sweanor and Bates didn’t begin to build their case when e-cigarettes arrived on the market. Years before vapor products existed, they were engaged in a battle against government (and other) efforts to impede access to scientifically valid information and access to smokeless products that decades of epidemiological studies demonstrate to be 98 or 99 percent safer than smoking.

So, what’s the best product to help an adult smoker leave combustible cigarettes behind?

And more recently, across the globe, we’ve seen the introduction of heat-not-burn products like IQOS (from Philip Morris International) and glo (from British American Tobacco) that reduce dangerous exposures to toxicants versus combustible cigarettes by heating, but not burning tobacco. Just as smokers in the U.K. and the U.S. are leaving cigarettes behind and switching to vapor products, smokers in Japan are leaving cigarettes behind by switching to heat-not-burn products like IQOS. It’s not an entirely new development. Years ago, we saw RJ Reynolds (now Reynolds American) develop and market products like Premier and Eclipse that were an effort to do the same. The concept behind e-cigarettes and vapor products – allowing adults to consume nicotine in a satisfying fashion without combustion and toxicant levels of tobacco smoke – existed long before any vapers were chasing clouds and before many were born.

Different individuals have different preferences. Some have even quit with nicotine replacement products like the gum and the patch that fail 93 percent of the time. So, what’s the best product to help an adult smoker leave combustible cigarettes behind? If vapers want to be intellectually consistent and they truly are fighting to ensure that smokers are allowed access to nicotine products that can lengthen and improve quality of lives, they should answer “whatever vapor product, smokeless tobacco product, heat-not-burn or other non-combustible products that work best for you.”

Brian Fojtik
Brian Fojtik has been educating legislators and public policy leaders across the country about the dangers of smoking and the concept of tobacco harm reduction for more than 20 years. Today, he speaks, writes, and consults on tobacco harm reduction and other consumer freedom policy issues on behalf of the Reason Foundation, where he is a Senior Fellow.