E-cigarettes continue to be a burning issue. Vapers are still a new product, and therefore call for regulators’ attention. The newest is that France is preparing to consider e-cigarettes tantamount to real ones. Apparently, a new bill is going to be presented in June that will make the treatment of e-cigs equal to that of traditional tobacco products.

The French will go for a ban, the Brits go for “self regulation”. One of Scotland’s biggest companies, “Standard Life”, a financial service provider, prohibited employees from “vaping” at their desk back in 2012. More recently, others have apparently followed their lead.

Now, these are very different solutions to a similar question. I understand that behind the temptation to ban e-cigarettes there are two different problems. One is a precautionary principle concern with these products: how much do they damage individuals’ health? If they are less dangerous than real tobacco, how could this “less” be quantified? The other is an issue related, so to say, with permissible habits. Smoking has something of a ritual: from lighting to puffing. The success of “vapers” is also based on the fact that, to be used, they required gestures that are somewhat similar. Can allowing surrogate smoking create confusion in large, densely populated working establishments?

On the first point, which is the most relevant, we should be aware that some 53 researchers and specialists have urged against stiffer regulation, arguing that “these products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st Century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives”.

Even if there isn’t still conclusive evidence that governments can rely upon, why couldn’t we just apply the precautionary principle to regulation for once? You shouldn’t prohibit something that could “potentially save hundred of millions of lives” unless you can provide persuasive evidence the opposite is true.