Part of the normalization of the e-cigarette industry involves separating the enjoyment of consuming nicotine as a drug from the harms of a defective, historically disastrous product: Tobacco smoke. The success of e-cigarettes, which are essentially stylized nicotine inhalers, has the potential of shifting nicotine into a category closer to caffeine: A socially-accepted stimulant people can enjoy in relative safety. That’s a long way from happening, and some may not want it to happen.
Top level guidance from the FDA will soon show how the government will approach the products, but how anti-tobacco campaigners end up viewing e-cigarettes could also color the way the industry grows, especially given the importance of local government policies in tolerating where the e-cigarettes can be used. If grassroots campaigners push for heavy restrictions, it would be bad news for the industry — and bad news for what some health experts think is a unique moment in the push against tobacco-related deaths.