Inaction on Smoking and Health
According to the ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Newsletter of 27 September 2023, ‘The “vapes are 95 per cent safer than cigarettes” message has backfired.’ Indeed it has, as I pointed out in 2017.
But first, a digression. ASH is misnamed. ‘Smoking’ and ‘health’ are incompatible. The one action they could take to improve the health of smokers – campaigning for the abolition of the sale of cigarettes – they won’t do. Therefore, a better name for this organisation would be ‘Inaction on Smoking and Health’ (ISH).
Now let’s see what, exactly, has backfired. ASH, hereinafter referred to as ISH, reports:
The message that vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking has encouraged some children to vape, says a top health expert, Dr Mike McKean: the 2015 public messaging should have been clearer – vapes are only for adults addicted to cigarettes.
Our top health expert is further reported as saying:
Vaping is only a tool for adults who are addicted to cigarettes…the 95 per cent safe messaging was very unwise and it’s opened the door to chaos. The ‘switch to vape’ message has had an unintended consequence of driving children to take up e-cigs.
At least he’s got it half right. Adults addicted to cigarettes, that is, nicotine, don’t need a ‘tool’: they only need to stop smoking. Cigarettes are on open sale (apart from an age restriction easily circumvented by any enterprising youngster), and e-cigarettes are now similarly available to all. And a consequence of this situation is ‘driving children to take up e-cigs’? Whether children are driven to this abnormal activity or turn to it out of curiosity or bravado, the consequence is the same: a significant proportion become addicted to nicotine and, as with smoking cigarettes, find themselves unable to stop.
Next, we have a quotation from that doughty Professor of Tobacco Addiction and e-cigarette enthusiast, Ann McNeill: ‘Vaping is less risky than smoking, but children should not be doing it.’ Oh really? Children should not be doing it, of course, but it’s all right for adults? Why are adults being discriminated against in this way?
The question of what would happen if vapes, or at least the disposable kind, were banned, is pursued in the ISH Newsletter of 3 October 2023 where we find a dire warning:
Efforts to cut cigarette smoking will be hampered by a ban on disposal vapes that is expected to be announced imminently.
Shock, horror. ISH elaborates:
Single-use vapes will be outlawed as part of a drive to stop children from becoming addicted to the devices. They have also been criticised for damaging the environment when they are thrown away, but the industry and some public health experts have warned that an outright ban on disposable vapes could be counterproductive to smoking cessation efforts.
Finally, we hear from Sharon Cox, principal research fellow in the behavioural science, tobacco and alcohol research group at University College London, no less, who said she was concerned about a ban:
E-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as traditional nicotine replacement therapies in equipping people to quit smoking and to stay quit for up to a year, but while there is no current evidence that single-use vapes specifically help people to quit, if they’re banned, we won’t ever know.
Oh dear. She continues:
Nobody’s ever said they’re risk free, but if you’re a smoker, one of the best things that you can do is to switch to an e-cigarette.
I almost give up in despair. If you’re a smoker you don’t need to be concerned about one of the best things you can do. The one and only very best thing you can do is to stop smoking. And that means you don’t need to change your way of putting nicotine into your body for another non-risk-free, way.
She’s not done yet, but reminds us:
The public is too complacent about the scale of smoking in society: we’ve got around 13 per of the UK population smoking. That’s a lot of hospitalisations, a lot of deaths.
What to do about this appalling situation? Why does no one except, except me, say it? Ban the manufacture and sale of cigarettes.
Text © Gabriel Symonds
Picture credit: Mike Wren, New York State Department, on Flickr