Our letter to the Editor, in response to this:http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-kids-smoking-e-cigarettes-school-6895830
Your recent article, ‘No smoke without fire! Kids are caught puffing on e-cigarettes in school’, stated that children across Liverpool were ‘puffing on e-cigarettes’, taking them to school, and that they were becoming a ‘prominent’ part of youth culture. These statements were based on a new report compiled by the Health Equalities Group (HEG) and the centre for public health at Liverpool John Moores University, entitled ‘Young People’s Perceptions and Experiences of Electronic Cigarettes’. The report concluded that ‘urgent action was needed to stop this new trend (using e-cigarettes) amongst young people’.
The impression given by the report and your article is that e-cigarettes manufactures are deliberately targeting children with advertising and flavours. These children, in large numbers, are taken in by this advertising and go on to become e-cigarette users and ultimately smokers. All this is allowed to happen, partly because, as Robert Ireland, Chief Executive of HEG said in your article, ‘e-cigarettes are not regulated’.
If true this would be deeply concerning. Thankfully though it is not true and it is therefore concerning that your newspaper chose to publish the statements of HEG and the conclusions of their report without subjecting them to any objective scrutiny.
Research, including a recent survey commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), has shown time and time again that e-cigarettes are not attractive to young people, and are therefore not used as a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Although awareness of e-cigarettes was widespread amongst young people aged 11 to 18, the ASH survey found no evidence that young people either used or perceived e-cigarettes as being a gateway to smoking.
Evidence produced by a variety of organisations including ASH and the American Cancer Society (ACS) clearly shows that flavours do not entice non-smokers to use e-cigarettes either, especially the young, as they have no interest in the product.
Researchers from the ACS looked specifically into the enticement of flavours. They found that flavours did not increase the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to teenagers. Rather, “Even after controlling for other statistically significant correlates, the odds of a smoker being willing to try an e-cigarette were 10 times those of a non-smoker.”
Tobacco cigarettes are the gateway to tobacco smoking, not e-cigarettes.
The HEG report even made this point in its conclusion which stated, ‘Overall seven out of eight young people had never accessed e-cigarettes’. You report also concluded that, ‘Despite widespread advertising of e-cigarette brands in print, visual and social media, the majority of participants reported that they had not seen any advertising for e-cigarettes and showed a lack of awareness of advertising and marketing strategies and approaches’. Yet somehow advertising is enticing young people to use e-cigarettes
As a campaign representing the interests of e-cigarette users, their friends, and their families, we want to see e-cigarettes robustly regulated as the consumer products that they are. However, it is not true to say that e-cigarettes are not regulated. At present there are 17 EU directives regulating them and further regulations will be introduced in 2016 as a result of the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. In addition to this, as you reported, the Department of Health is introducing new rules restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18, something that we publicly welcomed.
It is vitally important that all those reporting on or writing about e-cigarettes do so responsibly. Irresponsible and alarmist reporting has the potential to put smokers off making the switch to a safer alternative. As a campaign we have no interest in articles promoting e-cigarettes uncritically either. All we are asking for is balanced and factual reporting.
 ASH surveyed 12,597 adults in 2010 – the questions focused on e-cigarette use and awareness in Great Britain. The preliminary survey was followed up by an additional study of adult smokers and non-smokers in February 2012 and more recently in 2013. ASH also surveyed children and young people aged 11 to 18 in March 2013.