The debate about whether e-cigarettes are a net positive or negative for public health is becoming ideological at what I find an alarming rate. Before everyone gets too entrenched in their views, it might help to look at what has been learned about an older form of putatively safer tobacco, which was subject to the same questions as e-cigarettes are now: snus. I describe that evidence today at Stanford Medical School’s blog.

Personally, I was a strong snus advocate based on the Swedish research, but have become more reserved (though still on balance positive) since subsequent evidence complicated the picture. I have similarly mixed feelings about e-cigarettes, and I doubt that will change until we have better data, especially regarding what happens over time as the culture absorbs and adapts to this new technology.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

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Keith Humphreys is a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and served as Senior Policy Advisor in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Obama Administration. @KeithNHumphreys