NNA1 is very concerned by the latest attempt by Jonathon Gornall, writing in the British Medical Journal2 , to undermine the report commissioned and published in August by Public Health England on the subject of e-cigarettes3.
There is no doubt that smoking is a harmful activity, however people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar which is a by product of combustion. E-cigarettes and other harm reduced nicotine products have the potential to be a massive public health prize if smokers can be given the confidence to switch to them. In their recent evidence based report PHE estimate that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking. Recent surveys however, have clearly shown that there are a significant and increasing number of people who incorrectly assess the relative safety of e-cigarettes as being overly harmful when compared to smoking traditional cigarettes4 . This misperception has the potential to cause real harm to those smokers who might otherwise switch.
Criticism of the report based on quibbles over the 95% figure and tenuous insinuations of conflicts of interest in relation to some of the authors of one study out of the 180 cited within it do nothing but create doubt in the public mind, which discourages smokers from switching to the safer product and ultimately, harms their health.
Lorien Jollye, Trustee of the New Nicotine Alliance and a vaper said:
“Whilst it is of course important to ensure that information such as the PHE estimate that e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking is as accurate as possible based on current evidence, it is more important still that consumers understand the message being put forward. This means that messaging must be clear and unambiguous and framed within their personal experience. This is what the PHE report sought to achieve”
Sarah Jakes, Trustee of the New Nicotine Alliance and a vaper said:
“As Professors of Public Health, scientists and journalists fight out their battles through the pages of scientific journals and newspapers, smokers and vapers are left unsure about how these products may benefit them. The negative health impact that such confusion brings to every smoker who is discouraged by it should weigh heavily on the conscience of all of those who put pen to paper without considering the consequences of their words.”
1. NNA is the New Nicotine Alliance (UK), a UK registered charity which is concerned with improving public health, through a greater understanding of “new” (risk-reduced) nicotine products and their uses. 6 out of 8 of the trustees of the charity are ex-smokers who have switched to using e-cigarettes. NNA has no ties or affiliations with any nicotine industry including the tobacco, pharmaceutical or e-cigarette industries.
2. Public Health England’s troubled trail: http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h5826
3. E-cigarettes: An Evidence Update: Link to report in PDF format
The Sun newspaper, closely followed by several other publications, ran a story on the 21st of October with the natty headline: "Vaping Burnt a Hole in My Lungs". We will not fall into the obvious clickbait trap by linking to it, if you saw it you will know the story we mean.
If you are a new vaper, or a smoker considering switching to e-cigarettes and are concerned about this story, fear not. It is completely impossible for an e-cigarette to burn a hole in your lung in the way described in the story, or indeed in any other way. Please feel free to contact us via this site if you are still concerned.
Following on from the successful launch of The Glasgow School of Vape earlier this year, Colin Robertson has come up trumps with a new venue at the Drury Bar and Kitchen just across the road from Glasgow Central Station, starting at 2pm on Sunday 30th August and running on to 10pm .......
The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) welcomes the publication of ‘E-cigarettes: an evidence update’, a report commissioned by Public Health England, and we also welcome the extensive guidance and advice which arises from it.
The report, with its focus on the best available evidence and authored by Professor Ann McNeil (Kings College London) and Professor Peter Hajek (Queen Mary University London) will help counter much of the misinformation generated in the media by previous poorly designed studies, and by those with a prohibitionist agenda, which has lead to confusion and fear in the public mind as to the relative safety of these products. This has no doubt discouraged many smokers from switching to the safer products, and encouraged overly restrictive policies among employers and other decision makers to the detriment of the health of the smokers who might otherwise have benefitted.
Sarah Jakes – Secretary of the New Nicotine Alliance – says ‘This report confirms the weight of scientific evidence, and the experience of millions of consumers – that e-cigarettes save lives. The message is clear – e-cigarettes help people exit from smoking’.
The report concludes that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco. It highlights concerns that an increasingly large number of people incorrectly believe that e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than smoking, and that almost half the population do not realise that in fact e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking. It also finds that there is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route to smoking for children or non smokers.
Prof Gerry Stimson – Chair of the New Nicotine Alliance and Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London commented that ‘Public Health England is taking the global lead in seeing the value of e-cigarettes to reduce the toll from smoking. It’s time for an end to scaremongering and for public health leaders – in the UK and globally – to support this consumer-led solution to a pressing public health issue.’
Based on the findings of the review PHE has issued wide ranging advice including that:
PHE has also called on local stop smoking services to engage actively with smokers who want to quit by using e-cigarettes, and for health and social care providers to provide accurate information on the relative risks of smoking and vaping.
On the 13th of August the Royal Society for Public Health published a new report entitled "Stopping Smoking by Using Other Sources of Nicotine", which can be read in detail here: RSPH Report (PDF)
NNA welcomes policy proposals which would serve to encourage smokers to switch from smoking to harm reduced products such as ecigs or snus. We do not believe that an extension of the current smoking ban in enclosed public spaces to outside spaces will be effective, and may in fact be counterproductive. Whilst enclosed space bans were a popular measure with the non smoking public, and even many smokers who appreciated the discomfort indoor smoking can cause non-smokers, outdoor bans serve no demonstrable health benefits and will be seen as an infringement on the choice to smoke which many will no doubt resist.
Choice is a key factor in the success of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction method because consumers feel empowered by the fact that they have taken ownership of their own health in a way that was not previously available to them. The substitution of choice with coercion and the inevitable stigmatism which outdoor bans will bring will erode this significant advantage. Public health policies in this area should aim to stimulate behaviour change through the provision of education and accurate information about nicotine and tobacco harm reduction, and to ensure that regulation does not stifle or discourage consumers' efforts to live a more healthy life should they choose to do so. Policies should be framed to encourage change in behaviour, rather than be about forcing change via increasing prohibition and general disapproval, which is likely to simply breed resistance and antagonism.
There is much to be applauded in the RSPH report. We wholeheartedly support their call for a better understanding about nicotine and the relative safety of harm reduced products such as e-cigarettes. The fact that (according to the RSPH survey) 69% of smokers do not know that NRT products are less dangerous than cigarettes is alarming. More alarming still is the fact that according to the most recent ONS data, 20% of people incorrectly believe that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as smoking regular cigarettes, and this percentage has increased from 6% in 2012. This is a monumental failure in public health messaging and there will undoubtedly be costs in terms of lives and health if the public misconceptions on this subject remain uncorrected. The fact that the use of e-cigarettes is at least 95% safer than smoking should be prominent in the minds of smokers everywhere.
We also welcome the RSPH's call for greater utilisation of e-cigarettes as a tool in the armoury of Smoking Cessation Services. Without doubt there are smokers for whom e-cigarettes might be effective as a cessation device, but who lack the confidence to try them without support. We believe it is essential that services do not discourage the use of e-cigarettes, and further, that advisors should be equipped with the knowledge and resources they require to be able to support service users who choose to try to quit smoking using e-cigarettes. This will ensure that clients are given the best possible chance of success. NNA has considerable experience in this area and is already working with a number of services to achieve this end.
Legislators in Tasmania are holding a public consultation on e-cigarettes. NNA joined forces with Clive Bates to submit a resonse in an effort to head off wildly inappropriate and overly burdonsome regulation. You can read our response here.
The UK Nicotine & Smoking Cessation Conference is the world's largest event for the smoking cessation field, and the conference in 2015 again brought world-class speakers to present and discuss the very latest in clinical, research and policy developments. Held at the Manchester Hilton, NNA associates Andy McEwen and Andrew Preston were part of the organisation team for the event and ensured we had a presence.
Today the media has been flooded with the news that the Welsh Government plans to introduce a ban on vaping in enclosed public spaces. This has led to a slew of scaremongering and misinformation which is a subject probably best left to another article. NNA believes that the proposed ban in Wales is unjustified, misguided and will lead to harm, not only for vapers, but for smokers who will be discouraged from switching to a safer product. The ban is unlikely to come into force before 2017 and it is important that we all understand the legislative process in order to effectively fight this policy. NNA trustee Simon Thurlow has been involved with fighting these proposals from the start. Here he describes the next steps:
The Global Forum on Nicotine returned to Warsaw for two days on the 5th and 6th of June. Would it be possible to match the success of last year? Most of our trustees attended, here Sarah Jakes gives her personal thoughts on the event.
In what is expected to be a first of it's kind, Glasgow is to see the launch a new "School of Vape" event on 3rd May 2015. This is a new concept in Vape Meets and is the branchild of Colin Robertson, a vaper of 18 months standing.
Are you a new e-cigarette user, thinking of trying one or a business supplying new users? If so, Lynne Dawkins needs you. A survey is being conducted by researchers in the School of Psychology at the University of East London (UEL) in collaboration with Queen Mary University of London and the University of Geneva into the patterns of electronic cigarette use in new users over 12 months.
On the 19th of March CRUK (Cancer Research UK), together with the BHF (British Heart Foundation), ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) and MRC (Medical Research Council) held the first of two workshops on the subject of gaps in e-cigarette research. NNA trustees Sarah Jakes and Gerry Stimson attended. Read on for Sarah's account of the day.
Vaping etiquette: the best way to ensure smoke without ire
The surging popularity of electronic cigarettes has prompted calls for regulation, bans, or prescriptions on the NHS. Now a group of users say that the controversial devices need something more important: an etiquette guide. With about two million people using e-cigarettes, confusion over the rules on “vaping” in restaurants, offices and on public transport is rife, with some prohibiting it and others unclear.
NNA’s Board and Associates - Lorien Jollye, Sarah Jakes and Louise Ross - get New Year’s honours in the vapers.org.uk Women of the Year Award: http://vapers.org.uk/women-of-the-year-award-2014/