Dear Dr Hussey,
We are writing to you in your capacity as the Chief Medical Officer for Wales about a Welsh Government funded study from Cardiff University looking at e-cigarette use amongst young people and your comments following its publication.
The Cardiff University study shows that six per cent of children aged 10 – 11 have tried an e-cigarette, so we also know that 94 per cent have not, which is good. Sadly you chose to focus on the six per cent figure rather than the 94 per cent figure.
Those six per cent of 10 – 11 year olds are reported as having tried an e-cigarette. This is important, because the key issue is not how many children are trying e-cigarettes, but how many children having tried them then go on to become regular vapers.
Recent research produced by ASH demonstrated that children are not using e-cigarettes in significant numbers. The survey found that regular use of e-cigarettes amongst children and young people is rare and is confined almost entirely to those who currently or have previously smoked.
Research undertaken by Queen Mary University in London found that a child trying a tobacco cigarette for the first time is 50 per cent likely to become a regular smoker. The same research found no evidence that a child trying an e-cigarette for the first time goes on to become a regular vaper. A recent study by John Moores University found that, ‘Overall seven out of eight young people had never accessed e-cigarettes’.
Cardiff University themselves came to the same conclusion, “E-cigarettes are popular with teens, including those who have never smoked, but few of those who try them become regular users, with most of those who do so also being smokers.”
Cancer Research UK looked in detail at two major studies into e-cigarette use amongst young people in Wales, they concluded, “Looking specifically at two studies dedicated the use of e-cigarettes amongst young people in Wales only a minority of teenagers who try e-cigarettes go on to become regular users. And the majority of those who do use the devices regularly were already smokers.”
You will also be aware that both the Welsh Government and the Department of Health in England have legislated to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18. We have been calling for this for some time and welcomed the decision.
In conclusion, we are very aware of the Welsh Government’s proposals to ban vaping in enclosed public places throughout Wales. We note the fact that both you and the wider Welsh Government have tried to use this Cardiff University study as justification for a public vaping ban. This study in no way provides any such justification.
In its approach to e-cigarettes in general the Welsh Government are going against the precautionary principle as it was originally intended, they are trying to mitigate for a risk that has yet to be proven and in doing so may do more harm to public health than good.
Like you we care about evidence. All our position papers are evidence based. All our conclusions are reached after a thorough examination of the evidence. We hope that you will consider the evidence put forward in this letter and that you will think again about e-cigarettes and in particular proposals for a ban on vaping in enclosed public places.
 Research undertaken by Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London
 John Moores University – ‘Young People’s Perceptions and Experiences of Electronic Cigarettes’