When compiling our report on the vaping policies of UK councils, one of the Freedom of Information (FoI) replies I received made me chuckle because it was so egregiously bad. I didn't include it in the main report, mainly because it was too long to put in the notes section, but I also wanted to separately highlight it. Manchester City Council, take a bow. “Firstly there's the genuine health and safety question. It's very likely that e-cigarettes are safer than real cigarettes, as they don't contain a lot of the nasties that are known to cause significant health damage. However the manufacturers' claims that they are completely safe are premature - we don't have the data to support this claim yet. Some recent work has found evidence that 5 minutes smoking on an e-cigarette increases airway constriction and inflammation in a similar way to smoking a real cigarette. Continue reading
"We support a balanced approach towards nicotine containing products (NCPs) such as e-cigarettes, which maximises their potential to help people quit smoking, whilst minimising the risks of unintended consequences that could promote smoking. "We support ‘light touch’ regulation of new NCPs such as e-cigarettes, to ensure product safety and consistent dose, restrict marketing that risks re-normalising smoking, and stop them being sold to children. At present, we do not believe there is enough evidence to justify an indoor ban on e-cigarettes." They are not my words. They are the words of Cancer Research UK. I particularly like the reference to "light touch" regulation - advice that the EU did not take. I was surprised, though, to read in yesterday's Daily Mail that Cancer Research UK has criticised tobacco companies for the research they have commissioned regarding the safety of e-cigarettes. They also criticised tobacco companies for promoting vaping as a lifestyle choice, rather than a way of quitting smoking. If true, does it really make any difference? I say that from the point of view of Cancer Research UK, as my personal view is that it is up to the individual to make lifestyle choices for themselves. If people are quitting smoking, or vastly reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke by using e-cigarettes, surely the end result is more important to Cancer Research UK than the route getting there? Continue reading
A month ago I wrote about an Indian man who who faces three years behind bars for vaping and allegedly selling vaping products. The Indian Government is about as anti-vaping as you can get, no doubt taking a lead from the World Health Organisation (WHO) as it prepares to hold its COP7 Conference in Delhi in November. This is despite the mounting evidence that vaping could save millions of lives. A recent survey, however, has found that almost two-thirds of Indian smokers view e-cigarettes as a positive alternative if they could legally vape and they "met quality and safety standards, and were conveniently available". Instead of dealing effectively with the Zika Virus, WHO under the leadership of Margaret Chan would rather concentrate on making sure Indians never have the choice.
My answer to that question is a resounding no. But don't take my word for it. In this excellent piece in the Huffington Post, David Williams, President of the Taxpayers' Protection Alliance highlights that in Australia, which has been dubbed the "nanny state capital of the word", a former Labor Minister has condemned WHO for its "draconian policies and lack of transparency". And he's right. If you agree with WHO on its policies on tobacco and vaping, it will talk to you. If you disagree, you are not let through the door. Its thinking is so blinkered, it would rather destroy the vaping industry than work with all stakeholders to achieve sensible and workable tobacco harm reduction solutions. Continue reading
If, like me, you weren't listening to BBC Radio 4 at 6.50 am today, please listen to the interview with Prof. Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England. (A recording of the interview is below) He said that the NHS should continue to help people give up smoking using a range of methods and went on to describe e-cigarettes as "the number one quit aid". When he was questioned about vaping bans, he said now that the evidence is evolving and we know more, now is the time for us to look at our policies to ensure that we are not sending out mixed messages, or creating circumstances that can actually keep smokers smoking. Although I may not agree with Prof. Fenton on everything, he gets it, which is more than can be said about the World Health Organisation.