E cigarettes and the Washing of Hands

E cigarettes and the Washing of Hands

By Just a Vaper: “Just a Vaper” is the name chosen by the author because, like most vaping advocates, he is not funded by anyone in any industry. He is, like the name says, just a vaper.

Just a Vaper is not Brainyfurball, though Brainyfurball wishes very much he had thought of this first.


In the mid-1800’s, a physician named Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis noticed that there seemed to be a relationship between the handling bodies of people who had died of disease and mortality rates due to puerperal fever in women that had just given birth in a women’s hospital. In 1847, he suggested strongly that all doctors and nurses wash their hands after handling someone who died of any disease before tending to living patients. The doctors refused (thinking his theory was ridiculous), but the nurses couldn’t refuse. The result was that the mortality rate of women who had just given birth at this hospital decreased from 10% to 1-2%. The doctors were still not convinced (or maybe they were just not comfortable with being told they had to wash their hands) and began a campaign to discredit him, forcing him to leave the country.

He continued telling anyone who would listen (and more that would not) about his theory for 18 years. At this point, enough doctors were able to get together and agree that his obsession was a sign of mental illness and they were able to have him committed to an asylum, where he died 2 weeks later of sepsis (likely from the beatings he received from the guards as asylums were not really good when it came to patient rights at the time). But one of the people that had listened was Louis Pasteur. Starting from Semmelweis’ work, he continued his studies, eventually coming up with his Germ Theory of Disease based on his study of puerperal fever (the same one that Semmelweis noted was killing one in ten new mothers). Joseph Lister, acting on Pasteur’s theory instituted the practice of hand washing in hospitals and the practice caught on from there. I wonder how long this practice would have taken to develop if Dr. Semmelweis, who died with his contemporaries (including his wife) thinking he was insane and sending him to die in an asylum, had not pushed to get his idea out there?

The reason I was thinking of this is because I believe there is a type of consumer product that has the potential to get smokers to quit without harming others, but there is a strong movement to ban them (or restrict them to the point where they are no longer available) by the World Health Organization; public health departments; some of the pharmaceutical companies, and well intentioned (but completely misguided) organizations that want every smoker to quit (organizations that see no difference between nicotine and tobacco) – the electronic cigarette. It’s not for everyone, but for the people who use it, it helps them to cut down and quit better than anything else on the market today. Dr. Semmelweis’ work and theories ran against conventional medicine in his day and was not only suppressed, but his career was ruined by others in his field, eventually culminating in his death by their actions because they didn’t like his message. 150 years later, I really hope the medical community doesn’t do to e-cigarettes what their predecessors did with Dr. Semmelweis and his work through their campaign, a campaign that caused many new mothers to die prematurely because of bull-headedness.