IE Ireland

Last week, the Irish Cancer Society released an article under their ‘News’ section detailing some ‘alarming’ findings about who uses electronic cigarettes. After reading this article two or three times, I noted a few items that were a little odd. So I sent them a pretty lengthy e-mail and waited, not expecting a response.

Imagine my total surprise when I checked my inbox this morning to find that my email actually had a response from an ICS Advocacy Officer.  I’ll say this now, I do appreciate it when my e-mails get a response however short.  This one, was pretty detailed, if a little wishy-washy in places.

As stated in the press release, the research was carried out by Coyne Research in Dublin in an online poll of 1,000 people and 150 smokers in March 2015. Some of the results surprised us and some were expected.

Actually, there was no mention of who conducted the survey in the original press release. Checking the same press release now has a link to the actual results at the end of the article.  What actually gets me is the statement of “some results surprised us and some were expected”.

I would suspect that the questions asked in the survey were heavily skewed to produce a particular outcome, they always are as there just is no such a thing as impartiality in surveys anymore.  Of course, all surveys had some bias leanings, but never to the extent that seems to occur in surveys related to smoking or vaping.

This is the second survey the Society has carried out on e-cigarettes and shows an increase in users from 134,000 in July 2014 to 210,000 in March 2015.

Considering that the survey I’m looking at only looked at 1,150 participants.  If, as the advocacy officer suggests there is an increase in users (the figures quoted seem to suggest a whopping %64 increase), then why only survey 1,150?  With 210,000 surely there would be a greater base for more accurate results?

From the outset, I wish to point out that the Irish Cancer Society cannot recommend e-cigarettes without guarantees over their long-term safety and efficacy. Right now, this doesn’t exist.

Oh. Guess that explains that then.  I’ve had a look at the full position paper that is on their website, which is of course full of inaccurate, outdated ‘information’. Wish I hadn’t read it now.

I’ll kick off with my first comment, so far the ‘evidence’ I have come across and digested suggests that nicotine on its own is limited in addictiveness.  It is hardly benign, but I sincerely doubt that it is as addictive as is often claimed.

Our research shows that using e-cigarettes may actually increase smokers’ dependence on nicotine.

In my e-mail to the ICS, I specifically mention that I have my doubts over the addictive properties that are often claimed.  Considering that the majority of what is ‘known’ about ‘nicotine addiction’ originates from research into tobacco.

With a little comedy timing, an interview popped up in my Twitter timeline with Dr Jacques Le Houezec who is specifically asked about ‘addiction’ and it is quite enlightening.


Don’t forget, Dr Jacques Le Houezec is a Neurologist and is the Honorary Lecturer in the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, University of Nottingham, and a founder member of The Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.  So he knows his stuff. Vapers should also be aware of Bernd Mayer who is also an expert on nicotine.

Both seem to agree that when in traditional cigarettes there are other ingredients that, when combined with nicotine increase addiction, but also when nicotine is on its own, is not as addictive as is generally believed.

So far, the advocacy officer isn’t doing much to prove the point.

Whilst other NRTs are designed to wean a smoker off nicotine altogether in a controlled manner, there is no evidence to suggest the same for e-cigarettes.

Of course they would continue to push NRT, they wouldn’t want to disappoint their sponsors now would they?

Without regulation, no medical or pharmaceutical advice is being given alongside the purchase

You’ve pointed out the issue with e-cigarettes – in Ireland they are only covered by consumer regulations in the same way as clothing and toys are, not as a nicotine-containing device. The survey shows the vast majority of smokers who take up e-cigarettes are doing so to cut down or quit smoking. That’s great if they can do that, but don’t smokers deserve to use a device that is safe and effective? The only way this can be done is through regulations.

This was in direct response to a throw away comment, but it does clearly show that (at least in Ireland) they want vaping regulated as medicines and not the consumer driven product that they are.  Of course, anyone who uses a vaporiser deserves to know that it is safe, most of this is electrical safety and would quite easily be covered under IEEE regulations.

Despite the ‘intended market’ there’s increasing evidence that teenagers are beginning to try e-cigarettes and this survey was not going to ignore them. The survey found that 2% of e-cigarette users first tried them aged 15 or younger.

I am a little impressed at the attempted word play here, the advocacy officer states “beginning to try”. Not regular use, but try. There is a whole world of difference between try and regular use.

“This survey clearly shows that right now e-cigarettes are not a quitting aid as some people are led to believe,” says Kathleen O’Meara

The quote from Kathleen is self-explanatory. The result from our research is that 64% of current users and 66% of those who have ever used e-cigarettes smoke tobacco simultaneously. You cite a poll of 10,000 teenagers asked whether they felt addicted to e-cigarettes. I’m a little unsure why you cite this in your argument. The point that we make is that there are better, more proven ways of quitting than e-cigarettes.

Again, the blatant push of recommended NRT and completely ignoring the survey published by BBC NewsBeat and the study published in Addiction.  Yet the officer is questioning why I am citing this argument.

Think that the phrase “give me strength” applies here.  These people are so tunnel visioned that they cannot or will not accept that other options exist. If I needed any further evidence of pharma driven agenda, I need look no further than this one statement.

There is a fear among the public health community that e-cigarettes could potentially lead to young people taking up tobacco. You’re right, the full evidence of this is limited, and that’s why we put it in as a question in our poll. But there are indications that they could act as a gateway to tobacco

Oddly enough, the advocacy officer quotes the CDC’s recent figures which clearly debunks any and all gateway theories, yet they continue to believe that one still exists. The mythical unicorn again.

While you are correct that e-cigarettes should be considered, we are yet to see studies proving that they are safe for long term use or that they are a successful quitting aid. If smokers take the necessary steps with NRT and behavioural support, they can increase their chances of quitting up to four times. We can’t say the same for e-cigarettes. Further research into the efficacy of e-cigarettes as an aid to quit is required before the Irish Cancer Society can recommend these devices.

I did point out that several vapers I know have been vapers for 6 years or more with no ill effect. This is simply another blatant sponsorship message despite the kindly wordplay saying the personal vaporisers should be considered.  I guess ICS hasn’t contacted any of the SSS over on the mainland to talk to them about it at all, despite my reference to them.

I won’t go into any great detail on the statistics gathered in the survey, as Christopher Snowdon has already done so and discovered what we all expected, exaggeration and skewed results.

All in all, I read the response several times before settling in for this post, and despite my best efforts to remain as open-minded as I can, a lot of the phrasing and word choices clearly demonstrate the bias towards ‘recommended’ methods, which as we all know have terrible success and relapse rates.

I will endeavor to follow up on the response with additional requests for clarification, along with definitive evidence just to poke the hornets nest a little bit more.


I have finally finished composing my response to the advocacy officer.  I do suspect that this one may very well go unanswered, they’ll read it I’m sure. I just doubt I’ll get another reply.

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