Datum: 15 november 2023
Full title: Ethics, E-Cigs, and the Tobacco End Game: Trading off mortality of the world's #1 cause of death in the near term, medium term, and long term future
Research seminar with Dan Wikler, the Mary B. Saltonstall Professor of Population Ethics and Professor of Ethics and Population Health in the Department of Global Health and Population of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
Please note the time and that the speaker will join us online.
The introduction of tobacco into human affairs must be counted as one of our species’ great catastrophes, and its eventual termination – the tobacco end game – will be one of its great triumphs. As with the eradication of serious diseases, victory over tobacco will add countless years of healthy life to subsequent generations. Before celebrating these gains, however, we must win that end game. Though smoking rates are trending down in much of the world, the World Health Organization nonetheless estimates that if present trends continue, smoking will kill over a billion people before the end of this century. Perhaps this number could be reduced substantially, and victory in the end game achieved much sooner, by inducing smokers to satisfy their cravings for nicotine with electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), which seem to be far less lethal. This prospect has however, been stoutly opposed by tobacco control authorities in most countries and at the World Health Organization, chiefly because of the risk that teenagers who have never smoked will nevertheless become nicotine addicts by taking up vaping – and thus will replenish the population of nicotine addicts whose gradual disappearance over time is the key goal of the tobacco end game. Technology to block underage access to e-cigs is currently in hand but its deployment could increase smoking rates in that age group. Progress toward the removal of tobacco from human affairs requires strategic and moral trade-offs in the short and medium term.
In 2016 Dan Wikler held a talk on E-Cigs at the institute where he described the different views on tobacco control in ethical terms and proposed an ambitious new public health initiative. We published the talk, and suddenly Dan Wikler's inbox was flooded.... Some years later, our director Gustaf Arrhenius, spontaneously asked Dan Wikler what happened after the talk >