Public Health England Speak Out

Posted 6th October 2016 by Dave Cross
Public Health England (PHE) breached the ignorance surrounding vaping when they released their report in 2015, declaring e-cigarettes to be at least 95% safer than smoking. It was a theme picked up by the Royal College of Physicians and continued last week in the Cochrane Review. Now Kevin Fenton, PHE’s director of health and wellbeing has spoken about vaping directly to pharmacists in England.

Interviewed by Beth Kennedy, Chemist and Druggist magazine, Fenton said: “You will remember that last year we had just published our first major report on e-cigarettes, which really demonstrated that e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than cigarettes, and encouraged the public to understand there were significantly lower risks associated with e-cigarettes. Plus, the potential for e-cigarettes to help people to quit and quit for good. This year, a year later, we have even more evidence about the effectiveness and potential of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit for good.”

“The best thing a smoker can do is quit and quit for good. We have fewer smokers in this country than ever before, the rate of smoking continues to drop and we have all these ways to help people to quit. E-cigarettes have become part of a range of tools available.”

But did the inclusion of ecigs in last year’s PHE campaign make any difference?

“This is our fifth year of running the campaign, so we now have fabulous data that more than a million people have engaged and about 225,000 have been able to stay quit for 28 days. So we know that it’s effective.”

“We continue to be able to track the methods people use to quit smoking, so as we increase the visibility of e-cigarettes this year I’m hoping that we will also see an increase in the range of people choosing to use an e-cigarette or looking at combining e-cigarettes with stop smoking services – which we know is perhaps the most effective way to quit.”


As we all know, there are many conflicting sources of advice for professionals and users, where should they go for reliable advice?

“We would encourage all of our colleagues to go to the National Centre for Smoking Cessation, for support and training. We’ve worked with them to develop training tools about e-cigarettes and how to use them as a quitting aid.”

Kennedy mentioned how many pharmacists believe that e-cigarettes are not a good thing to offer as they might renormalise smoking.

Fenton responded: “Well, the good thing is that we have been studying the intended and unintended consequences of e-cigarette use. This is one of the main commitments for PHE moving forward. But we can’t make up evidence where it doesn’t exist.”

“So, yes, we must be concerned about the normalisation of smoking behaviours, but if that was happening we wouldn’t the significant reductions in smoking in children – which we’re seeing. We know that smoking in children is now at an all-time low. And last year we saw the greatest decline in one year in the prevalence of smoking, so that data does not suggest to me that we’re renormalising smoking behaviours.”

The Electronic Cigarette Company

“What it [the data] is saying is that as people are taking up e-cigarettes we are beginning to see the impact in both adults as well as in children.”

No renormalisation, no gateway – vaping is just a product that works.

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