Vaping News

Health "experts" on Harm Reduction

Three supposed public health experts say that arguments to support harm reduction are based on selective evidence.

Share on:
Martin McKee was a self-declared ecig ignoramus in 2013. Since then he has made it a mission to fight vaping at every opportunity and has made some outlandish statements. Now he teams up with a pair of Australian public health busy bodies to attack the science underlying harm reduction.

In 2015, McKee was inventing evidence to link vaping to cocaine addiction and attacking harm reduction advocates (by calling them online trolls). As the year rolled by, McKee launched a bizarre criticism of the Public Health England report which had declared vaping to be “at least 95% safer than smoking”. He drew almost universal condemnation for his inane actions, but that didn’t prevent him from publishing further nonsense in the British Medical Journal. Last year, he sent a letter based on selective and incorrect attributions to the New England Medical Journal.

McKee likes to frame the debate as one being skewed by tobacco company shills and online trolls, where he is the innocent and misunderstood hero coming to rescue humanity. It’s a theme that continues in Harm reduction and e-cigarettes: Distorting the approach, a paper published in the Journal of Public Health Policy.

It begins by attacking one of three major studies: “Despite a widespread consensus that e-cigarettes are likely to be less harmful than conventional cigarettes,” write the trio, “although not about the highly controversial ‘‘95 % safer’’ figure cited in a report by Public Health England”.

It’s not “highly controversial”, the figure is only questioned by McKee and his close-knit bunch of vape deniers. The paper continues to raise the same objections McKee has been raising for the last few years – all of which have been soundly debunked, but he refuses to acknowledge that or engage in direct debate.

They make a flawed claim that evidence used to support harm reduction arguments has been selectively quoted, by selectively quoting their own evidence: “We argue that this comparison misrepresents those policies that have been used with narcotics, selecting only those elements that favour e-cigarettes, while ignoring others.”

Clive Bates commented: “The idea of reducing the supply and demand of the very low-risk alternative is obviously absurd. The whole point of harm reduction is to expand the supply of and demand for the low-risk harm-reduction alternative at the expense of the high-risk product or behaviour. Are they seriously suggesting that we should take measures to reduce the supply of clean needles or reduce the demand for condoms in high HIV risk settings?”

He continues: “The main problem is that many commentators from this school are thoughtful harm-reductionists when it comes to illicit drugs, sexual behaviours and other risks, but inexplicably become 'abstinence-only' when it comes to the mildly psychoactive drug nicotine. It is a glaring inconsistency that this article helps to illuminate.”

ECITA’s Tom Pruen continues the attack in his marvellous blog post: “Sadly, the main point proven by the article is that the authors have completely failed to understand harm reduction.”

Photo Credit:

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
View Articles

Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

Join the discussion


Parliament Fears Two

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs faced questions from a Conservative MP and, oddly, a member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Vaping News

Harm Reduction For The Rich

The United Kingdom risks becoming a harm reduction country only for the wealthy, according to Michael Landl of the World Vapers’ Alliance

Vaping News

Sacrificing Health For 2p Cut

Tory Government alienates vaping voters with its mission to cut tax by an unaffordable 2p to attract voters by placing a tax on vape products in the forthcoming budget

Vaping News

Scotland Announces Single-Use Vape Action

A ban on the sale and supply of single-use vapes in Scotland is due to come into effect on 1 April 2025, under proposed legislation published today