Promotion of E-Cigarettes: Misleading and Irresponsible

An organisation called Yorkshire Cancer Research has put out a video entitled Vape to Quit.

This video, though well meant, shows everything that’s wrong with the current approach to quitting smoking. I’ll transcribe some of the speech and add my comments.

‘There’s (sic) various ways stop’ says Paul Lambert, Public Health Specialist of Leeds City Council. The way to stop smoking, or to stop doing anything, is – just stop! You don’t need a ‘way’ to stop doing something. Then he says ‘Cold turkey is the most popular but it’s the least successful [way of stopping smoking]’ but this is nonsense. If it’s not successful it means you’re still smoking so it’s not a way of stopping at all.

Then he tells us, ‘The best way of stopping smoking is to use a stop smoking service and combine that with either an e-cigarette or nicotine replacement therapy such as patches or gum.’ Why is it that smoking is regarded as something you’re stuck with, like pimples or bad breath and you need some kind of treatment to get  rid of it? Mr Lambert adds that this approach is ‘four times more likely to be successful’. But it’s meaningless to talk of an unsuccessful way of quitting smoking. Worse, it’s handing the smoker an excuse – assuming one needs an excuse at all – so he or she can say ‘I tried to quit using X but it wasn’t successful!’ In any case, the ‘four times more likely’ business is unclear. Four times more likely than what? Well, I think they’re referring to a figure you hear quite a bit from people trying to urge smokers to quit. It’s derived from studies that claim to show only 4 per cent of smokers quit unaided but 15 per cent quit with so-called nicotine replacement – an 85 per cent failure rate.

Why does the video take the polarised view that you either smoke (very dangerous) or you use e-cigarettes (claimed to be much less dangerous). Why not just stop smoking? That’s not dangerous at all, compared with continuing to smoke.

For a change of scenery we have Leah Holtam, Cancer Information Officer of Yorkshire Cancer Research, walking along a shopping street while she reads from a teleprompter: ‘E-cigarettes are still relatively new. Their long term impact needs more research,’ she says.

We don’t need more research. The only way to find out whether e-cigarettes are harmful is to wait while people who are hooked on vaping do it for around twenty years and then we’ll know. Because people who use e-cigarettes, that is, put chemicals into their lungs  many – perhaps hundreds – of times every day it stands to reason this won’t do them any good. But why should anyone in their right mind want to do this anyway?

She goes on to say, ‘But we can’t afford to wait while the health of thousands of people across Yorkshire continue to be harmed by tobacco smoke.’ Quite right. Therefore cigarettes ought to be banned. And unless and until they are, smokers need to be shown how they can quit easily and completely without using nicotine in any form, such as with the Symonds Method.

Vape to Quit was followed on my browser by a video that begins with a female voice intoning: ‘Imagine if there was an alternative to smoking cigarettes.’ Hold it right there! Why imagine an alternative to smoking cigarettes? Why not imagine – and do it in practice – not smoking at all. You don’t need an alternative to smoking cigarettes!

The blonde presenter, Caroline Kitchens of a New York think tank called R Street Institute, breathlessly enlightens us: ‘Imagine this alternative could help millions of people to quit smoking and came with only a fraction of the harmful chemicals that cigarettes do. Well, you don’t have to imagine it – it exists. E-cigarettes are the most innovative and promising smoking cessation product yet invented etc., etc…[but] more research is needed especially on long-term effects.’

Same problem: the alternative to smoking is to use e-cigarettes. And note the bit about the need for more research.

Not only is it misleading to present e-cigarettes as the answer to the smoking problem, but since we don’t and can’t yet know whether they are safer than smoking, the way they’re promoted in these two videos is irresponsible.

Text © Gabriel Symonds

Gabriel Symonds

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