Matt Ridley talks e-cigs on Newsnight


By Emily Barley

Matt Ridley, journalist and Conservative Peer (and friend of Conservatives for Liberty) appeared on yesterday’s Newsnight, arguing against the regulation of e-cigarettes.

His argument was very clear: e-cigarettes are of minimal harm and are helping people to quit smoking.

“All the evidence suggests it’s now the top way of quitting cigarettes … from a standing start from within about a year.”

On the suggestion that addiction itself is a problem, Ridley made the point:

“Nicotine is addictive, yes. But so is coffee. People are addicted to coffee … nicotine is not very harmful, and the NHS website says very firmly that these things are probably about 1,000 times safer than cigarettes.”

Marketing is making smoking seem ‘cool’ said Professor Martin McKee (public health specialist). But the evidence simply doesn’t support this:

“on young people as well as on adults, the evidence is that these are being used as a gateway out of cigarettes.”

“What we’re talking about here is relative risk, harm reduction, it doesn’t make the best the enemy of the good.”

These are all extremely good points that should make public health official stop and think before regulating e-cigarettes, however, the freedom of individuals to choose, without a nanny state limiting those choices, is also an important principle of a free society.

To further demonstrate his soundness, Ridley spoke briefly on the tax on sugar proposed by the Chief Medical Officer:

“I don’t think we should be micromanagaing people’s diets. People should be left to make up their own minds on these things.”

“Taxing shouldn’t be about encouraging or discouraging particular things.”

Ridley’s appearance on Newsnight can be viewed here, from about 38:50 in (expires 11/04/14)