E-Cigarettes: A Time Bomb? Really?

First, let me be absolutely, 110% crystal fucking clear. I do not care which method of cessation you choose. I do not care if you are smoke free through one method or another. I do not care if you smoke. I do not care if you vape. Whatever choice you make is yours and yours alone.

I vape, and I do encourage others to do so if I feel they want to. I do not preach.

Right, now that’s out-of-the-way, even though I needn’t really have made those statements, on with the post.

I’m going to pick on a particular “method of cessation” today. Mostly because of how the organisation is being run, and the attitude shown towards the likes of me and millions of others that have chosen to be smokefree with a different method. By making their own choice. If someone wants to quit smoking, then I’ll happily encourage that. Same if someone wants to quit vaping. It is an individual choice, whatever choice someone makes I’ll support that choice - I might not completely agree with that choice, but I’ll support it nonetheless.

The British public are concerned about the use of e-cigarettes and confused about their safety, according to exclusive research conducted by Allen Carr Addiction Clinics, with 47% of people claiming they view e-cigarettes as the new health time bomb for the NHS.

Interesting phrasing that. “The British public are concerned”. As this “research” was conducted by the Allen Carr Addiction Clinics, I’m going to assume that this was in the form of an on-line survey, similar in nature to the ones that ASH perform. The thing with this type of survey is selection bias. Most folk won’t participate in a survey about e-cigarettes/smoking/cessation because they have no interest in the topic. This does lead me to believe that the participants of this particular survey are likely to be those that have read the Allen Carr book(s) and/or attended the seminars. There may be a few smokers in there along with other particularly virulent anti-smoker never smokers (or even militant former smokers).

So when you have a clear selection bias, it is no wonder that “47%” would claim to view e-cigarettes as a “health time bomb” for the UK NHS. True, there is still a shortage of good quality long term data to be had on the use of e-cigarettes, but there is enough short-term data to make a reasonably accurate prediction with a relatively small margin for error. Not that anyone will do such a thing, but having read the 198 studies in the PHE report, the information contained within the RCP report and multiple studies (which I, and many others have had to subsequently debunk) along with personal experience, I would suggest that e-cigarettes will not be a “time bomb” at all for the NHS. Quite the opposite in fact.

To coincide with World No Tobacco Day on 31 May 2016, a poll of 1,000 smokers and non-smokers conducted by One Poll highlights that 56% of people are concerned about government policy and a further 56% of those polled said that they are confused about the safety of e-cigarettes, including 49% of people that already use e-cigarettes.

Of course. A “One Poll” survey. It’s YouGov style with different branding and is, 110% full of selection bias. Interesting note - 56% said they are “confused about the safety of e-cigarettes” - including 49% that use them, this to me suggests that the 49% that said that are most likely recent switchers - having been bombarded with utter nonsense in the media, with the exception of the two landmark reports, confusion is natural. After all, aren’t the media supposed to provide a “balanced” view? Oh that’s right, the media exists to sell itself. I forget.

20% of smokers claim to know of someone, including themselves, who is addicted to e-cigarettes, with 53% of smokers using the devices at some point. Worryingly, 67% felt current policy was more likely to encourage children to try e-cigarettes, which will only add to the problem.

I wondered when the old “addiction” statement would crop up. Perhaps the folks at Allen Carr would like to watch the Horizon episode with Dr Michael Mosley who, after a month of trying to maintain a schedule of vaping was not addicted to it. That in itself speaks volumes don’t ya think? Add to that the research into MAOIs, and the (limited) research into nicotine on its own would tend to thoroughly debunk any “nicotine is addictive” type statement, but it keeps getting trotted out like some prize pony at the fair.

Weirdly, the survey seems to think that us Brits are ashamed of being vapers:

  • More than 21% were embarrassed to use their e-cigarettes in public (I call bolludules - #CelebrateTheVape folks)
  • 57% felt e-cigarettes shouldn’t be allowed in restaurants (do I sense pressure for a ban “only where food is served”? we know how that turned out with smoking don’t we?)
  • More than 50% felt someone smoking (for the love of all that’s holy, it is not smoking) an e-cigarette was the most intrusive thing that could happen in their personal space (whoever thinks that might have other things to worry about if I get in their personal space #justsaying)
  • 52% felt e-cigarettes shouldn’t be used at all in public spaces such as on trains or in workplaces (sigh - see this is how it starts, because someone “doesn’t like it”)

A comment from the “Global Managing Director & Senior Therapist” (oh my, given how he has been behaving on social media, perhaps he should step down) did make me chuckle, wince and cringe all at the same time:

We support anything that helps smokers to quit but these research findings highlight that consumers, including smokers themselves, are confused and wary about the impact of government policy, changing attitudes to vaping and are unclear how safe e-cigarettes actually are. At Allen Carr Addiction clinics we’re extremely concerned by the way e-cigarettes are marketed and are being pushed as safe/appropriate for use in public places – making smoker-like behaviour more common. Aside from those issues it will be years before the long term negative health effects relating to e-cigarettes are known. The fact we already have e-cigarette users attending our clinics wanting help to stop indicates that vaping is not the silver bullet the government hopes it is.

Look, let me put it this way. Until the lipstick on a pig TPD entered into force, advertising e-cigarettes on the tellybox, in print, online or on the radio fell under the ASA guidance. If I recall correctly, many ads were indeed shown, and the vast majority of those ads were withdrawn because of “complaints” - and we know (most likely) who were the main antagonists for that. As a result, it was incredibly difficult to meet the guidelines to be able to show an e-cigarette ad on the tellybox or broadcast on the radio, and the amusing thing? The only companies that could really afford to meet those guidelines? The tobacco industry. Go figure.

I am a little surprised that they have “e-cigarette users” attending their “clinics” but then, this is a PR piece designed to belittle one alternative in favour of another. Let me be clear, if the “Easy Way” method works for someone, than great - but it isn’t for everyone, and the attitude shown by this organisation is perverse, vile, and utterly loathsome.

Facebook post & reply saying the ‘Easy Way’ didn’t work

Facebook post claiming nicotine addiction

Facebook post dismissing the encouragement of vaping

Facebook post claiming vapers are bullies

Facebook post referencing a new book for stopping all nicotine use

Facebook post discussing the Public Health England Evidence Review

Tweet from ‘@allencarr’ view on vapers

Whoever operates the social media accounts for this organisation need to stop and think as the attitude they take with regards to a valid option for getting away from tobacco for those that want to try it is only serving to increase confusion and lay even more stigma on to a disruptive technology. But then, it’s not really about health is it?