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On the day that NNA was in the High Court asking for permission to join the effort to overturn the ludicrous ban on snus, and Hertfordshire County Council were holding their very successful 'e-cigarette masterclass', at which delegates learned about vaping, and sensible vaping policy, Public Health Wales issued their new position on e-cigarettes. http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/news/43873 

It is difficult to imagine the machinations that must have gone on within PHW whilst coming to this position. Seemingly realising that a failure to admit that e-cigarettes are very much safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes is now akin to being an anti-vaxxer, they grudgingly advise that anyone who is unwilling or unable to stop smoking should switch to vaping instead. Quite why anyone would want to do so given the rest of the PHW statement is anyone's guess.

Cherry picking from the US Surgeon General report, and of course the World Health Organisation, we are told that:

There are no benefits to children or young people using e-cigarettes.

No one wants to see young people initiate nicotine use via any method, but for those who have or will take up smoking there are definite benefits.

'Confectionary-like' (sic) flavours of e-liquid should not be permitted, in order to reduce the appeal of ENDS to children and young people.

How many times do we have to point out that the majority of adults prefer candy and fruit flavours. Certainly these flavours should be marketed responsibly, but in light of the fact that there is no evidence that 'confectionary-like' flavours, or indeed any other flavours, cause young people to take up regular vaping, all that this policy would achieve is to make e-cigarettes less appealing to those adult smokers who, as PHW admits, would benefit from switching.

Until a more definitive risk assessment can be completed, voluntary restrictions on the use of ENDS in enclosed public spaces should continue.

No doubt PHW would have preferred to push for legislative bans, but given what happened last time they tried, they settle for telling Welsh businesses to do that job for them. Contrary to PHW's carefully selected 'evidence' on this issue, there is no evidence at all of a risk of harm to bystanders, or that vaping renormalises smoking.

Additional 'factoids' in the statement include:

"Use of e-cigs may reduce the likelihood of smokers quitting by displacing scientifically proven methods to help people quit."

"The use of ENDS will act as a gateway to tobacco use."

Needless to say there is no evidence to suggest that either of the above concerns are happening in the real world.

In summary, whilst PHW's assertion that for a smoker, switching to e-cigarettes will significantly reduce the risk of harm to health is welcome, this statement is completely outweighed by the very negative comments which follow. We can all guess what this information will look like:

"Public Health Wales will include information on ENDS alongside other aids to stopping smoking in all information materials and in Stop Smoking Wales support services. Information on all products will be presented to support smokers in making an informed choice about the best way to quit for them."