Vol. 4 No. 7 (2014)
Eliasian Themes

E-Cigarettes and the "Civilising" of Smoking

Published 2016-10-17


  • Smoking,
  • Civilization

How to Cite

Hughes, J. (2016). E-Cigarettes and the "Civilising" of Smoking. Cambio. Rivista Sulle Trasformazioni Sociali, 4(7), 169–181. https://doi.org/10.13128/cambio-19241


This paper explores the ascendancy of electronic cigarettes as part of a wider set of processes involving the “civilising” of tobacco use. I centrally argue that the growing popularity of e-cigarettes can only properly be understood when placed in the context of a broader set of historical developments that have centrally involved the “sanitisation” of smoking. In relation to this undertaking, I explore the curious convergence between devices which are intended to stop smoking (nicotine replacement therapies) and technologies designed to keep smoking (electronic nicotine delivery systems). I argue that regulatory and classificatory distinctions between nicotine “therapies” and “drugs” have increasingly come to collapse, highlighting the importance of exploring the social and psychological uses of tobacco in understanding, and informing, policy debates about tobacco regulation. The paper centrally draws upon the work of Norbert Elias and his concept of “civilising processes”. Where many analyses of changing patterns of drug use, consumption and regulation adopt the lens of medicalisation, this paper explores the utility of Elias’s key concepts in explaining long-term transitions and developments in the practice.


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