Nothing but a speck of ASH

New EU rules on nicotine strength not a problem for most vapers is the headline of a pretty dire press release from ASH where, once again, they show that they’ve never really been the ‘vapers friend’. With an increasing number of smokers switching to vaping – estimated to be around 2.8 million in 2016 – ASH reckons that the Tobacco Products Directive “need not cause problems for most vapers”.

How on earth do they figure that the TPD “need not cause problems” ? Despite regular discussions with members of the New Nicotine Alliance and the increasing number of public health experts (actual experts mind) in the fields of smoking cessation, respiratory medicine, cancer research and many more – ASH have today announced that they simply do not care about vapers, and in particular a “small” group – roughly 9%,  which when stated like that doesn’t mean much, how does 252,000 sound? – use e-liquid that falls foul of the TPD rules.

But it isn’t just that group, those 252,000 lives, it’s the thousands of other lives that may also be affected if they want to switch to vaping. This concern was raised in the House of Lords recently in a very succinct comment from Earl Cathcart:

Brussels is banning advertising; e-cigarettes must carry health warnings; and nicotine strengths are to be restricted. To my mind, restricting nicotine strength to 2% will be particularly damaging, but I would say that, as I still use the 2.4%—as do about a quarter of e-cigarette users. By taking up vaping, I hope to keep the grim reaper at bay for a little longer. I hope that when I run out of my 2.4% nicotine supply and I am forced to use the weaker nicotine, I do not switch back to smoking. That is the danger for many e-cigarette users. Perhaps by the time I run out of my 2.4% nicotine supply, stronger nicotine may be available on the black market, with all the dangers that that will entail.

Such common sense would tell you that those requiring 2% nicotine concentration and above are the ones most at risk for relapse. But no, ASH dismiss those concerns with :

Concerns raised in Parliament about the EU rules are not borne out by the ASH Smokefree GB Adult Survey. Only 9% of vapers report using e-liquid containing 19mg/ml or more of nicotine.

In black and white. This is ASH saying that the TPD is not a problem. They also state that the 2ml limit on tanks is also not a problem ‘cos 11% of vapers use more than 4ml of liquid in a day. That’s only 308,000 everyday people. This is of course assuming that the figures being reported by ASH are indeed true, and I have no reason – currently – to suggest otherwise, unless you consider the Office of National Statistics data that suggests 2.2 million current users in 2015 with 3.9 million former users (of both combustible and vapour products) and finally 2.6 million that tried a vapour product, but didn’t go on to use it.

Of course, the ASH survey (run by YouGov of course) will be self-selecting – as most online surveys are – suggests, and was no doubt carefully phrased for this precise purpose, that those self-selecting vapers are predominantly in the lower strength range – most likely using “better” devices – a thoroughly subjective phrasing, something that ASH mentions in the press release:

The minority of vapers using higher strengths and higher volumes of e-liquid will continue to be able to buy these until 20th May 2017, leaving time for products to evolve to meet their needs.

Despite repeated conversations with experienced vapers, ASH are still completely missing the point. Those on the lower strength liquids are likely to be using their devices in a completely different way than they did when they first started vaping. As noted by Jessica Harding in a previous post:

there’s an assumption that e-cigs are for smoking cessation and so there’s an expectation that vaping should be boring and uncomfortable and users should stop doing it once they have stopped smoking cigarettes – as with smoking cessation treatments

We’ve seen mention on several occasions that vaping should only be exclusively for smokers and only as a means for cessation.

Vaping addresses the best bits of smoking.   Public health campaigns have always ignored the fact that some aspects of smoking are enjoyable – possibly because the people behind them don’t get it.  With vaping you do get the best of both worlds.

Let’s consider that just for a moment. Vaping addresses the best bits of smoking. It is the ritualistic hand to mouth motions and the sensations the inhale and exhale. These are, what I would classify as the “best bits of smoking” – I and I’m sure many other vapers fundamentally enjoyed smoking and were loath to stop. Now we are being told – “Don’t worry folks, this TPD thing isn’t going to affect you” – well thanks a lot ASH. I never did trust you, and frankly I never will.

By stating that “most vapers use less nicotine than the limit set in the new EU regulations and are likely to have to refill their devices no more than a couple of times a day. Concerns that the EU regulations would force the products most vapers use off the market seem to have been overstated.” you have, quite literally thrown vapers under a bus – just like you’ve tried using us to throw smokers under the bus.

It does actually get worse than that.

In 2016 47% of current vapers think vaping is a lot less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes, compared to only 12% of smokers who’ve never tried vaping. Misperceptions about the relative risk of vaping and smoking are growing, not declining. In March 2016 only 15% of adults thought e-cigarettes were a lot less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes, down from 21% in 2013. In contrast the proportion of adults thinking e-cigarettes were equally or more harmful than cigarettes had risen from 7% in 2013 to 25% in 2016.

Out of the folks involved in the regular survey from ASH, only 12% of smokers believe that vaping is a lot less harmful than smoking – and the misperceptions about the risk are growing. Just think, that daft arsed smokefree beach idea which ASH remained resolutely silent about the inclusion of vaping. There’s the total ban on Nottingham Council property of both vaping & smoking. All these, along with the proposed inclusion in the debacle that was the Public Health Wales Bill have only served to spread misinformation and the perception that vaping is as harmful as smoking.

Then there’s the awful press releases that spring up – the “ten times more cancer causing chemicals” and the worst article of last year from that cell study. Not once did I ever see ASH put out a strong response. Nor did I ever expect them to, after all they’ve shown little regard for the actual people that will be affected. I think Dick Puddlecote said it the best:

I think we know where ASH’s priorities lie now, don’t we? And it’s certainly not with vapers or asserted with health in mind. Their allegiance seems to be firmly with protecting their chums in tobacco control from rightful condemnation rather than being “supportive” of e-cigs and tobacco harm reduction.

I had always hoped that my sentiment toward ASH was wholly due to their treatment of smokers, but then I realised it wasn’t just smokers they treated badly. It’s everyone they don’t like. It’s never been about health, it never will be about health. They’ve slowed down a bit now because one of their most powerful segments, “The Greedy,” most certainly do NOT want a full Endgame (i.e. a total ban / illegalization) which wouldn’t end smoking but WOULD end their tax-funded grant money and paychecks.

After all, got to keep their nose in that taxpayer trough right?


By the way, I’m not the only one to write about ASH being so disingenuous:

Clive Bates has, and he isn’t happy at all with his former organisation.

Fergus Mason has, and he’s never been happy with ASH.

Dick Puddlecote has, and he’s one of those libertarian chaps that everyone in tobacco control hates.

Vapers In Power released their statement on the ASH press release.

The New Nicotine Alliance also released their statement.

I doubt ASH will listen.

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