Welsh Dragon

Posted 20th April 2015 by Dave Cross
Doctor Ruth Hussey, the chief medical officer of Wales, has spoken against electronic cigarettes following the release of findings from a Cardiff University study. Unfortunately for Hussey the authors of the research do not agree with her interpretation.

According to the BBC, Hussey said: “E-cigarettes could normalise smoking among a generation which has grown up in a largely smoke-free society,” before going on to express her fears for the unknown implication of long-term use with children. The fear she harbours has convinced her to part-fund a PhD studentship with Cardiff University specifically looking at youth e-cigarette use.

The terms of reference for the doctorate covers two topics familiar to vapers: “e-cigarettes may re-normalise teenage smoking” and “they could be a new gateway into nicotine addiction.” It would appear clear that she knows what she would like the successful candidate to find, themes she was happy to put out on the Wales Online website.

“(The Cardiff) research demonstrates that e-cigarettes are being used by young people who have never smoked,” she added. “We should be doing everything we can to prevent a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine.”

The study she is using to her own ends is quite clear in its findings:

  • Current weekly smokers were 100 times more likely than non-smokers to report regular e-cigarette use
  • Regular e-cigarette use was also more likely among those who had smoked cannabis

It will concern users of electronic cigarettes that 5.8% of Primary children have access to vaping equipment but it should be noted that they are already likely to be smokers, ex-smokers or cannabis users. Some would say that under-11 access to such things is of more concern than the use of ecigs – already demonstrated by research to pose less of a health problem than smoking tobacco.

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The authors state in their conclusions: “Regular use is less common, and is associated with tobacco cigarette use,” something they continue in an article written for The Conversation. Unlike Hussey’s interpretation of their findings, the authors are unequivocal in stating there’s “no evidence it’s a gateway to smoking.”

Doctor Graham Moore, the team’s lead and a research fellow at the university, writes: “the prevalence of regular e-cigarette use among school-aged young people is still very low. Less than 2% of the 11 to 16-year-olds surveyed in Wales reported using e-cigarette use at least once a month.”

So, whereas Hussey seems to believe that vaping may inspire a new generation of nicotine addicts, Moore counters that: “e-cigarettes are not likely to contribute directly to nicotine addiction for many, if any, young people at the moment.”

Clearly, as far as Hussey is concerned, the ideal future is one where no nicotine products exist. Others will continue to debate whether or not it is better to have vaping as an alternative to smoking so that adults may choose to use a relatively harmless substance for their own pleasure.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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