The Harm Reduction Journal is an organization dedicated to researching and implementing methods of reducing harm related to drug abuse. Essentially their message is that if drug use cannot be completely stopped, than we have to help keep those safe who are at risk.
And considering that tobacco is the world's leading cause of preventable death, I would say that the e-cigarette issue is a extremely relevant to their quest.
Here's the summary of their full initial analysis on electronic cigarettes as a possible harm reduction technology. You can read the entire publication and even download it the eBook here.
The dream of a tobacco-free, nicotine-free world is just that—a dream. Nicotine’s beneficial effects include correcting problems with concentration, attention and memory, as well as improving symptoms of mood impairments. Keeping such disabilities at bay right now can be much stronger motivation to continue using nicotine than any threats of diseases that may strike years and years in the future.
Nicotine’s beneficial effects can be controlled, and the detrimental effects of the smoky delivery system can be attenuated, by providing the drug via less hazardous delivery systems. Although more research is needed, e-cigs appear to be effective cigarette substitutes for inveterate smokers, and the health improvements enjoyed by switchers do not differ from those enjoyed by tobacco/nicotine abstainers.
It is of paramount importance that government and trusted health authorities provide accurate and truthful information about the relative risks of smoking and alternatives to smoking. If the public continues to be misled about the risks of THR products, millions of smokers will be dissuaded from switching to these much less hazardous alternatives. One of us recently wrote that, “It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco. The benefits they get from tobacco are very real. It’s time to abandon the myth that tobacco is devoid of benefits, and to focus on how we can help smokers continue to derive those benefits with a safer delivery system” .
In the absence of regulatory standards, it is important that currently marketed products are of high quality. For example, the hardware should be reliable and should produce vapour consistently. The liquids should be manufactured under sanitary conditions and use pharmaceutical grade ingredients, and labels should contain a list of all ingredients and an accurate and standardized description of the nicotine content.
According to a recent article by CDC researchers, the proportion of U.S. adults who have ever used electronic cigarettes more than quadrupled from 0.6% in 2009 to 2.7% in 2010 with an estimated number of current electronic cigarette users of about 2.5 million . Although rigorous studies are required to establish THR potential and long term safety of electronic cigarettes, these figures clearly suggest that smokers are finding these products helpful. If they were ineffective one would not expect the market to take off as it is. Most importantly, even if this THR product proves to be effective for only 25% of the smoking population, it could save millions of lives world-wide over the next ten years.