A crafty move by Mark Drakeford?

A lot has changed in the months since the Welsh Lib Dems started our fight against Labour’s illiberal vaping ban. Nine months, some rather tense Committee sessions, a hilariously embarrasing Government survey, plenty of emails to AMs and over 3,500 petition signatures later, we’ve succeeded in forcing Labour’s hand and watering down their original proposals.

 

Instead of a blanket ban in all enclosed public spaces in Wales, Mark Drakeford now only plans to ban vaping in a specific list of places. It seems that this list won’t form part of the legislation itself, however; it will instead be set out in regulations that will be passed separately to the Bill.

 

This is a crafty move on his part for two reasons. Firstly, it makes whatever list he comes up with much easier to change in the future. What may now include schools, public transport and establishments that serve food could be expanded much more widely with a lot less fuss than changing the law.

 

But secondly, and perhaps more crucially, this makes the entire Bill much easier to pass. Drakeford has said he needs to “work with others” to pass the Bill – those “others” I suspect are some Plaid Cymru AMs, who have been putting forward proposals very similar to what Labour now suggest.

 

The “others” certainly aren’t Welsh Liberal Democrats – we’ve been clear from the start in our opposition to these proposals. From a purely ideological perspective, as a liberal I’m uncomfortable with the idea of government banning something without clear evidence of the harm it could cause to others. But from looking at the evidence alone, it’s clear to me that the proposed vaping ban won’t just fail to improve public health – it could even lead to harm by preventing people from making the switch that many have made from tobacco cigarettes to the less harmful e-cigs.

 

It’s true that Welsh Liberal Democrats certainly couldn’t stomach any Bill that contained a vaping ban like the one we have in front of us. But the task of voting against this Bill is made a lot easier by the fact that, aside from some small changes to regulations around tattoos and piercings, this so-called “Public Health Bill” doesn’t actually achieve anything.

 

With so many public health issues facing our nation at the moment – obesity, cancer, heart disease to name but a few – is this Bill really the best that Labour can come up with? As it stands, the Bill does very little to solve any of these great public health challenges – and in the case of cancer, could even worsen the situation because of this vaping ban.

 

But we must not give up hope – there is still time to stop this ban in its tracks, but we all need to redouble our efforts in this fight. That’s why, as I write, we’re preparing campaign packs to send to vaping shops across Wales so they can do their bit in collecting petition signatures. If you haven’t yet added your name, you can do so by clicking here.

 

With your help, some determination and a bit of luck, I hope I’ll be writing on this blog in two months’ time in a Wales free of a vaping ban!

 

Kirsty Williams AM

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

 

What else do we have to do?

The Welsh Health and Social Care Committee gave their report on the new Welsh Bill that will ban vaping in public and enclosed public spaces last week.

We were expecting a yes/no response – yes we agree or no we don’t, i.e. throw the vaping ban out.

What we didn’t expect was a no consensus answer, a ‘no direction’ answer. This means that the Assembly Members are gong to have to work it out for themselves; what they know about e-cigs, what they believe and want to do re banning vaping in public places.

Reading the report for the second time, I had a realisation as to why there was no consensus.

And I’m not 100% convinced it is because of party politics, though I am sure this has played a large part.

Could it be that many of the AMs are simply scared of making the wrong decision?

Reading the first part on e-cigarettes, there were three ‘bodies’ for the ban, 7 against it.

How did the minority that had no evidence have more of an effect than those with evidence?

Could it be that those tasked with regulating are scared of saying yes to e-cigs because of the tobacco industry and the history there? Because of the way that Tobacco Control has so successfully manipulated all our thinking around smoking?

Smokers are portrayed as bad, smelly, lazy, good for nothing people – (sorry Einstein and Churchill). The Tobacco Industry is portrayed as evil, they want to kill you for money and they lie and cheat. Nicotine is supposedly as addictive as heroine and the children are going to become hooked.

Have we all been so brow beaten in to believing this that anything that looks like smoking is evil, that even a product that is at most conservative guess is 95% safer than smoking, but looks a little like it, should be banned because people are scared of history repeating itself?

Only a few regulators will take that risk.

It doesn’t matter that expert witnesses sat in front of the committee, expert witnesses that have spent their entire careers studying tobacco control and who told the committee that banning e-cigarettes in public was a bad idea. The committee couldn’t come to a consensus, couldn’t agree, and as such could not put forward any recommendations.

This is troubling, because we now have regulations that could come into force because of a ‘possibility’. A possibility of harms, not any actual proof, and nor is the credible researching even hinting at this.

What we have is a possibility that at some time in the future there may be harms.

But how long into the future are we looking? The majority of vapers have been smoking for decades, how will we know if any of the harms are due to smoking or vaping or both? Vaping will, if this ban goes through along with the TPD be nothing more than another NRT, one that will no doubt have the same dismal success rates after all the innovation has been regulated out of it.

Non smokers are not interested in vaping, this has been shown again and again, both here and in the USA – but this is still a fear – a ‘potential disbenfit’ that vaping renormalizes smoking. Public Health in Wales believes that it will, in their minds it looks like smoking, so it will encourage smoking. Again the experts outnumbered the generalists, but the fear got in the way of the AMs – it could ‘potentially’ happen.

What of the gateway theory that should have been put to bed a long time ago? Again we have the experts against the generalists – the generalist; all 2 of them plus the Minister based their reasoning on poor, debunked science. The experts, all 4 of them, stated they are not a gateway.

The HSC Committee’s response to this? “ The Committee acknowledges that limited evidence is available about whether the use of e-cigarettes is acting as a gateway to smoking tobacco products. Nevertheless, it is concerned to learn of examples of e-cigarette marketing being targeted at children and young people.”

I could continue, but the rest of the report is in the same vein; the committee acknowledge the lack of evidence to back up the Ministers claims but they remained concerned or want more monitoring.

How is it that the experts have not managed to convince them?

Why is it that to us, the benefits are as clear as the noses on our faces?

Somehow we have ended up dealing with ideology, one that has a Health Minister when responding to the claim that if vaping is lumped in with smoking, then vapers will be put in harms way said, “people are making choices here, and nobody is forced to use an e- cigarette or a conventional cigarette or to stand next to anybody else who is using either”.

You can’t fight that mind-set with facts, or research, because it’s not based on either. It’s based on an emotion, a belief; a belief that smoking is horrible and you shouldn’t do it. It doesn’t matter if that ‘smoking’ is 95% less harmful – you still shouldn’t do it.

And the committee is seems are basing their responses on emotions too, because despite robust positive evidence, given by experts, they remain concerned.

5 AM’s supported the proposed ban, 5 would amend the proposed ban, 4 oppose it. Looking at the numbers there is still a chance that the ban may be defeated and I guess this is a hope we must cling to.

Meanwhile you can still do your bit. You all have your own story, and now would be a great time to tell it. Tell your AM how many you smoked and for how long, tell them how many times you tried and failed to quit using SSS or NRT, but finally vaping helped you.

Make it clear that for you it is a choice between vaping and smoking as everything else has failed, and when you look at it that way; vaping is clearly the better option.

 

 

Our Letter to the Welsh Health and Social Care Committee

On the 17th of September the Health and Social Care Committee took evidence from amongst others, Dr Stephen Monaghan of BMA Wales and Dr Jane Fenton-May of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

In their evidence Dr Monaghan and Dr Fenton-May made a number of statements:

  • Nicotine is addictive
  • Nicotine is dangerous
  • Children share e-cigarettes and therefore contact hepatitis
  • Vaping undermines the smoking ban
  • E-cigarettes are targeted at children
  • Passive vaping is dangerous
  • E-cigarettes lead to the renormalisation of smoking and are a gateway to smoking
  • The e-cigarette industry is owned by tobacco
  • People using them do not realise that they contain nicotine

Like you, we believe that policy should be based on evidence and as a campaign representing the interests of vapers, their friends, and their families, this is particularly important to us. It was therefore interesting that when asked by two members of the committee to provide evidence, they were unable to provide a single piece of evidence to support a single one of the above statements.

Does vaping undermine the smoking ban?

There is no evidence what-so-ever to indicate that vaping undermines the smoking ban or makes it harder to enforce. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the body tasked with enforcing the ban, stated that there is a 99.7 per cent compliance rate with the smoking ban, and they have found no evidence to support the idea that vaping in public is undermining this.[1]

Are e-cigarettes targeted at children?

No. 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. Researchers from the ACS[2] 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.’

Flavours are though important for adult smokers switching to vaping. In research[3] carried out by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and others, vapers stated that the availability of flavours was “very important” in their effort to reduce or quit smoking. This research also found that the majority of vapers would find e-cigarettes “less enjoyable” or “boring” if flavours were restricted, while 48.5 per cent of vapers stated that it would increase their cravings for tobacco cigarettes and 39.7 per cent of vapers said that without flavours it would have been less likely for them to reduce or quit smoking.

Strict new advertising rules also make it impossible for the industry to target children through advertising and a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18s will soon be introduced in Wales.

Are e-cigarettes used regularly by children?

 No. Looking specifically at Wales, Cancer Research UK 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.’[4] This is backed up by research undertaken by ASH.[5] We also know of no cases of hepatitis contacted from shared vaping.

Do e-cigarettes lead to a renormalisation of smoking and act as a gateway to smoking?

No. We are very lucky in the UK that a significant amount of work is done on the issues or gateway and renormalisation. This work in updated on a regular basis and is principally carried out by Professor Robert West and ASH. Both state that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes act as a gateway into smoking[6] and that there is no evidence that vaping risks re-normalising smoking.[7]

Is the e-cigarette industry really owned by big tobacco?

No. Figures produced by the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) show that of the 407 brands/companies operating in this sector in the UK only six are owned by tobacco companies. The companies they own are those that manufacture and sell the cig-a-like e-cigarettes. These are the more ineffective products that are used by an increasing minority of vapers as research from the University of East London demonstrates.[8]

Is nicotine addictive and dangerous?

 Most e-liquids will contain pharmaceutical grade nicotine. It will be MHRA approved and the same as that used in NRT products. This clean nicotine in and of itself is not a harmful substance. Professor Robert West said, “E-cigarettes are about as safe as you can get. We know about the health risks of nicotine. Nicotine is not what kills you when you smoke tobacco. E-cigarettes are probably about as safe as drinking coffee.”[9] Over the summer a number of bodies including ASH[10] and the Royal Society of Public Health[11] called for more to be done to ensure the public understand that nicotine is ‘not the deadly component in cigarettes.’

Nicotine is addictive when consumed via cigarette smoke. However, as Professor Linda Bauld and others have made clear, nicotine when consumed in a form other than tobacco is not a particularly addictive substance.[12] You can see this with vapers. Many heavy smokers when they first switch to vaping will start off using a high strength nicotine e-liquid, but over time they will reduce the strength they use and some will even go on to vape nicotine free e-liquid. Vapers often forget to vape; would they do this if they were addicted?

Is passive vaping dangerous?

No. A major scientific study undertaken by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and Professor Riccardo Polosa concluded that the “effects of e-cigarette use on by standers are minimal compared with conventional cigarettes.”[13] A review of the available literature conducted last year by researchers at the Drexel University School of Public Health in Philadelphia concluded that “exposures of bystanders pose no apparent concern.” Finally the US Food and Drug Administration conclude that all other substances measured for e-cigarettes were far below allowable levels for human inhalation. They state that levels are so low that it is more hazardous to an individual’s health to breathe the air in any major metropolitan city during rush hour.

Conclusion

Dr Monaghan’s and Dr Fenton-May’s statements were caveated with ifs and maybes. There should be no room for ifs and maybes in policy making. When asked they were unable to provide members of the committee with any evidence to support their statements. In this briefing we have countered their statements with facts and we have drawn those facts from ASH, Cancer Research UK, the MHRA, Professor Linda Bauld, Professor Robert West, Public Health England, ECITA, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, the ONS, Royal Society of Public Health, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, University of East London, Professor Riccardo Polosa, the American Cancer Society and others.

Banning vaping in enclosed public places is not a minor change as supporters of the ban will have you believe. Vapers will go back to smoking and fewer smokers will switch to vaping.

We have pointed out time and time again that there is no evidence to justify this ban. We have provided AMs with numerous briefings and we have written countless times to the Minister and his officials. We feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall and when we watch evidence sessions like the one on the 17th of September we simply want to cry. What do we have to do to get a fair hearing and for facts to triumph over unfounded, evidence free fears?

 

Yours sincerely

 

Save E-cigs

 

 

 

 

[1] Meeting of the All-Party Groups on Smoking and Health, Pharmacy, and Heart Disease 10 June 2014

[2] http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00409-0/fulltext

[3] http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/10/12/7272

[4] http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/news-report/2015-04-16-regular-e-cigarette-use-low-among-teens-analysis-suggests

[5] http://www.ash.org.uk/media-room/press-releases/:latest-data-finds-no-evidence-that-electronic-cigarettes-are-a-gateway-to-smoking-for-young-people

[6] http://metro.co.uk/2014/04/27/e-cigs-cleared-of-being-route-into-smoking-4710734/

[7] http://metro.co.uk/2014/04/27/e-cigs-cleared-of-being-route-into-smoking-4710734/

[8] http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/staff/lynnedawkins/

[9] The Guardian newspaper 05 June 2013

[10] http://www.ash.org.uk/:ash-supports-calls-for-more-to-be-done-on-public-understanding-of-nicotine

[11] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/13/health-bosses-promote-e-cigarettes-harmful-tobacco-smoking-experts

[12] http://www.scottishparliament.tv/category.aspx?id=19&page=1&sort=date

[13] Safety evaluation and risk assessment of electronic cigarettes as tobacco cigarette substitutes: a systematic review:

Konstantinos E. Farsalinos and Riccardo Polosa

published online 13 February 2014 Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety

GFN 2015

GFN

 

Save e-cigs was at the Global Forum on Nicotine, and once again the entire agenda was based around electronic cigarettes and e-liquid.

 

This is the second year the GFN has been held and the second year in the lovely City of Warsaw. This year it attracted more delegates, and dare I say it a few more of the big guns, which reflects the importance that this conference is gaining. Hon Lik the inventor of the modern day e-cig was there – (yes, there was much awe in the room when he spoke!) but also Dr Derek Yach, the man who was responsible for leading the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

 

Having him speak was not only symbolic of where e-cigarettes have come, he was also one of the loudest critics of the attitude that many in Public Health are clinging onto. During his speech  a prominent tobacco control advocate tried to defend a Dr from the BMA that had stated e-cigarettes are worse than tobacco cigarettes, (basically an indefensible statement) he roundly put her in her place!

 

The theme this year was billed as ‘a different kind of endgame’. I think this was a tad optimistic in the light of the global opposition to e-cigarettes, but there was plenty of talk regarding policy, how to engage with policy makers and politicians, plus Simon Thurlow who has been representing Save e-cigs in Wales, gave two presentations and did all of us very proud.

 

The Highlight of the conference was undoubtedly Hon Lik and the humble manner in which he spoke. I think he was overwhelmed by the strength of goodwill towards him.

 

The most exciting part was the impassioned speech by Dr Atilla Danko, but what struck me the most was the way that the scientists are 100% aware of the terrible effect the junk science and the mass media scare tactics are having, and they are just as scathing and seething towards this as we are. They are aware of just how deeply entrenched the tobacco control and Public Health fears are, and that many that are in Public Health are using a business model that is out-dated and was designed back in the 1960’s when the war against big tobacco was well and truly raging. However, we are now 50 years on from that, the world has changed beyond belief, and Public Health and Tobacco Control need to join the digital age with its digital thinking.

 

 

Overall it was a great GFN, wonderful to meet delegates from all over the world – including Australia, New Zealand and China. Once again it is very positive and reassuring experience when you are in a ‘bubble’ like that – listening to like-minded people and refreshing yourself on the latest research.

 

Shame we all had to come down to earth with a bump  due to Mark Drakeford and his ridiculous proposed vaping ban in public spaces in Wales!

 

The presentations from the GFN .

 

 

 

 

E-cigs, journalists, newspapers and the truth?

On Thursday of last week The Daily Mirror newspaper, either on line or in print, carried three stories relating to e-cigarettes:

 

  1. E-cigs DON’T help smokers quit fags – in fact they make it harder to stop, written by Stephen Beech

 

  1. E-cigarette health warning: Flavoured nicotine liquid packed full of danger chemicals, researchers claim, written by Jasper Hamill

 

  1. Do e-cigarettes encourage smoking? School children more likely to try ‘vaping’ than tobacco, written by Mark Smith

 

And they have recently run the following front page:

 

Mirror

 

The first story highlighted above, written by Stephen Beech puts forward an argument that using e-cigarettes actually makes it harder for people to quit smoking. The overwhelming body of credible evidence makes it clear that this is not actually the case: E-cigarettes actually make it easier for people to quit smoking, by offering them a viable and less harmful alternative. There are 2.1 million vapers in the UK and 700,000 of them have completely stopped smoking as a direct result of vaping. Robert West, Professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies at University College London’s department of epidemiology and public health said: “We found that those using the e-cigarette were about 60 per cent more likely still not to be smoking than those using the licensed product or nothing at all.”[1] As e-cigarette use has risen smoking rates have fallen.

 

The second story highlighted above, written by Jasper Hamill states that flavoured nicotine is packed full of dangerous chemicals. This study is based on a tiny sample and crucially does not analyse the vapour that is actually breathed in by users. A number of leading toxicologists have already discounted its findings. The key conclusion in this study was for regulatory action to include requiring ingredient identification, limiting levels of some individual flavour chemicals, and limiting total levels of flavour chemicals. Many of these are things that responsible companies already do and the industry in the UK is working with the British Standards Institute on a recognised standard that will cover all of these issues.

 

The third story highlighted above, written by Mark Smith is very similar to the  papers front page story, namely that children are trying e-cigarettes. However, when you look behind the headline you see a very different situation. 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[2] 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[3].

 

Research undertaken by Queen Mary University in London[4] 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’[5].

 

What the paper’s article failed to mention was how many young people tried e-cigarettes and then went on to use them on a regular basis. There is a huge difference between trying something once and using something on a regular basis. We know from figures produced by ASH that very few young people are using e-cigarettes on a regular basis and of those that do they are confined almost entirely to those who have currently or previously smoked.[6] This is also exactly what the Cardiff University study showed. As Cancer Research UK have said, “Regular e-cigarette use is low among teens.”[7]

 

It is interesting how the paper chose to report this Cardiff University study because others papers took a different approach and arguably reported the study far more accurately.[8]

 

As a campaign representing the interests of vapers, their friends, and their families we are deeply concerned by these headlines. Not because we blindly support e-cigarettes, but because many of these headlines bear no resemblance to the articles that appear under them, more fundamentally, many of these headlines blow out of all proportion the research that the article is based on and often given undue prominence to second rate science that fails to stand up to even the most basic of expert scrutiny. One of the world’s leading experts on e-cigarettes, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos writes regularly about this warped science narrative[9].

 

These headlines and others like them are now resulting in a decline in vaping as the graph below demonstrates. The latest figures produced by the authoritative Smoking in England survey[10] show that e-cigarette use in England fell in 2014 from 22 to 18.6 per cent, the lowest level since the second quarter of 2013.

stats

 

Professor Robert West, said that “misleading” and “sensationalist” reports were putting smokers off switching to e-cigarettes[11]

We know from research undertaken by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos[12] that smokers’ perceptions of risk are very far from accurately aligned with reality. This affects their smoking/vaping behaviour. In Spain a sustained period of similar misreporting of e-cigarette safety stories resulted in a 70 per cent fall in the number of vapers. These people did not just quit vaping, they went back to smoking. As Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos makes clear, it is relatively easy for a vaper to go back to being a smoker!

 

We know based on figures produced by ASH[13] that 99.9 per cent of vapers are former or existing smokers. The latest statistical bulletin from the Office for National Statistics on Adult Smoking Habits in Great Britain, 2013[14] shows that only 0.14 per cent of non-smokers use e-cigarettes.

 

When it comes to the safety of e-cigarettes it is how safe they are compared to tobacco cigarettes. We know that there is never a situation where it is better to smoke than it is to vape. All the credible evidence shows that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London states that electronic cigarettes are five per cent of the risk of tobacco cigarettes, in other words at least 20 times safer than tobacco cigarettes[15]. As Professor John Britton from the Royal College of Physicians has said, “If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started using e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.”[16]

 

The key health benefit of e-cigarettes is determined by how many smokers switch to them or use them as a staging post to quitting completely. It is therefore vital that media coverage of e-cigarettes is accurate and balanced.

 

 

[1] Study carried out on 5,000 smokers, by Professor Robert West looking at the success rate of different methods to stop smoking: nicotine gum, nicotine patches, nothing, or e-cigarettes. Reported on BBC Breakfast 28 April 2014

[2] http://metro.co.uk/2014/04/27/e-cigs-cleared-of-being-route-into-smoking-4710734/

[3] http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf

[4] Research undertaken by Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London

[5] John Moores University – ‘Young People’s Perceptions and Experiences of Electronic Cigarettes’

[6] http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf

[7] http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/news-report/2015-04-16-regular-e-cigarette-use-low-among-teens-analysis-suggests

[8] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3040282/Many-teenagers-try-e-cigarettes-regular-users-study-finds.html

[9] http://www.ecigarette-research.com/web/index.php

[10] http://www.smokinginengland.info/latest-statistics/

[11] The Financial Times, 03 February 2015

[12] http://www.ecigarette-research.com/research/index.php/component/k2/item/85-the-importance-of-proper-information-risk-perception-about-e-cigarettes-is-the-strongest-predictor-of-dual-use&Itemid=213

[13] http://ecigarettereviewed.com/ash-uk-survey-adds-further-evidence-that-e-cigs-dont-appeal-to-non-smokers

[14] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/ghs/opinions-and-lifestyle-survey/adult-smoking-habits-in-great-britain–2013/stb-opn-smoking-2013.html

[15] Professor Peter Hajek speaking at the E-cigarette Summit, The Royal Society, London on the 13th of November 2014.

[16] The Independent, 29 March 2013

Open Letter to Chief Medical Officer, Wales.

Dr Ruth Hussey

 

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[1] 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[2].

Research undertaken by Queen Mary University in London[3] 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’[4].

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.”[5]

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.”[6]

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[7]. 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.

 

Save  e-cigs.

 

 

 

[1] http://metro.co.uk/2014/04/27/e-cigs-cleared-of-being-route-into-smoking-4710734/

[2] http://www.ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_891.pdf

[3] Research undertaken by Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London

[4] John Moores University – ‘Young People’s Perceptions and Experiences of Electronic Cigarettes’

[5] http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/view/93573-e-cigarette-use-among-welsh-teenagers

[6] http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/news-report/2015-04-16-regular-e-cigarette-use-low-among-teens-analysis-suggests

[7] http://gov.wales/newsroom/healthandsocialcare/2015/e-cigarette/?lang=en

It’s really Ground Hog Day on National No Smoking Day.

Ground Hog Day

 
Last year on No Smoking Day, Save E-cigs decided to look at the official No Smoking Day website to see how much information they were providing regarding e-cigarettes. We were surprised, given the huge potential of e-cigarettes, that there was not one single mention of e-cigarettes on the website. We wrote at the time:

“Is it too much to hope that by National No Smoking Day next year, policy makers and public health campaigners will have realised the amazing potential of e-cigarettes? Is it too much to hope that these people will stop pretending e-cigarettes do not exist or that they are somehow “dangerous”? Is it too much to hope that these people will engage constructively with vapers and try and understand that for the vast majority of smokers NRT just does not work? Perhaps it is, but on this National No Smoking Day, this campaign’s message to policy makers and public health campaigners is this: This is a crucial moment, a narrow window of opportunity. If wisely regulated, e-cigarettes can make tobacco cigarettes obsolete. The stakes are high, and we need to play it right. Please, please, please do not blow it by focussing all your energies on concerns that have no foundation.”

So one year on and it is No Smoking Day again and a search of the official website reveals that yet again it fails to include a single mention of e-cigarettes.

So on a day dedicated to encouraging people to make an extra special effort to give up smoking, the official campaign website fails to mention the most effective method of helping people to quit smoking by enabling them to switch to a less harmful alternative.

Not only does the official website fail to mention e-cigarettes, but many of the individuals and organisations behind No Smoking Day have spent much of the last year doing their level best to undermine e-cigarettes and to discourage people from vaping. Why?

We know from official research that e-cigarettes are at least 60 per cent more effective than traditional NRT and smokers know this too. As a result NRT sales are falling, councils are spending less on smoking cessation services, but fundamentally smoking rates are at their lowest level in recorded history.

So the official No Smoking Day website and many of the organisations and individuals behind the day can continue to ignore reality, but what they should not do is go out of their way to spread unfounded fears about e-cigarettes and to agitate for regulations that bans vaping in public or prevents smokers receiving access to information about e-cigarettes.

If these people really want to help smokers quit then they should set aside their ideological prejudices and embrace those methods that provide the best chance of helping a smoker quit. You only have to look to Leicester to see what happens when a smoking cessation service embraces e-cigarettes.