The are a lot of myths and disinformation in the world of electronic cigarettes, and one of the misguided statements made by people and organisations who wish to stifle the growing e-cig market is that electronic cigarettes normalise smoking.
Recently BBC reported that :
The BMA is worried that the more people start using e-cigarettes the more it will normalise something that looks like smoking. They have called for the ban on smoking in public places to be extended to e-cigarettes.
This policy from the British Medical Association goes in the exact opposite direction to the anti-smoking campaigners ASH, who say in their report (here - PDF) most emphatically that e-cigarettes should not be included in the ban on smoking in public places.
Lets go back to the original question,
Do e-cigarettes "normalise" smoking ?
It is pretty obvious that anyone who has actually studied electronic cigarettes and looked into how and why they are used, will come to the exact opposite conclusion.
E-cigarettes normalise smoking cessation (not smoking) - Indeed, e-cigs normalise the process of stopping smoking tobacco in a way that is easy and familiar for smokers to do. Yes, they are still using the nicotine element, but in a way that it not harmful to others and is widely regarded as 99% less harmful to themselves.
When smokers see many other people using an e-cigarette then the process of smoking cessation is being normalised - more than that, it is the only thing that truly normalises smoking cessation in a way that is totally familiar for a smoker.
It gets better - electronic cigarettes de-medicalises smoking cessation - and this is a very important benefit. Smokers see their cigarette use as a habit or a pastime, not a medical condition - which creates a conflict when the approved methods for helping people to stop smoking use pharmaceutical treatments that medicalise something that the person does not see as a medical situation (which might explain the dismal success rates of NRT and Champix).
This "de-medicalisation" of smoking cessation with e-cigarettes further promotes the idea of normalising smoking cessation amongst smokers.
Notice that I have been talking about smoking cessation, rather than nicotine cessation (nicotine is relatively harmless) - also that I take the libertarian view that people should be allowed to smoke if they want to, but crucially, given access to accurate information about the alternatives.
Groups like the BMA appear so be spreading misinformation about e-cigarettes - and this misinformation could result in the loss of life - so it is serious - Professor John Britton has clearly stated that e-cigarettes could prevent up to 5 million deaths in the UK alone - so it is very serious, and important that accurate information is provided.
E-cigarettes do not normalise smoking, as the BMA would have you believe, they do the opposite, and to continue providing information that seems to go against the truth is, quite frankly, both incompetent and negligent.