Tennant lay the ground with her opening statement: “For me, there’s something about standing back from this and saying: What is it that we know? Where have we got consensus? Where we don’t have consensus, why is that? And, what are the reasons we still have people who remain highly sceptical about vaping?”
For Tennant, the advent of the talks taking place at cities across Britain is a prime example of how academics and harm reduction experts can engage directly with the media and the public to overcome this perceived scepticism.
“What concerns me,” Tennant continues, “is the polarisation you sometimes get around this debate. People have very strong views on both sides and sometimes that doesn’t create the best atmosphere to have a constructive dialogue.”
As part of being the Leicester’s public health director, Ruth is also a member of The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH); a national body seeking to improve and protect the health of the population through collating and presenting the views of directors, advising on public health policy and the promotion of equitable public health policies. It’s through bodies such as this that consensus is being reached for the way vaping should be promoted to the remaining British smokers.
The message is clear and simple; from Ruth, the ADPH, Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians: “The benefits of vaping far outweigh the harms of smoking.”
“There is a strong consensus,” Tennant adds, “that actually using e-cigarettes as a quitting aid is useful and is important. It is out there, it is happening and it’s not something we need to control. We therefore need to get behind that.”
And getting behind vaping is precisely what Leicester has done.
The Stop service was the very first in the UK to endorse vaping and support people who wished to use ecigs to quit. Such was Leicester Stop’s success under manager Louise Ross that they became a model for every Stop service in the country. Soon after, the Stop service was co-opted to help with a Queen Mary University study in 2015. Then, as the Conservative’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, named vaping as one of the three biggest health challenges facing Britain, Leicester again took the lead in allowing patients on mental health wards to vape.
The message has expanded county wide, and last month Doctor Sanjay Agrawal spoke about how electronic cigarettes offer a fantastic opportunity to reduce smoking-related incidences of lung cancer.
“There are areas where we still don’t have consensus,” Tennant continued. But, if Leicestershire is anything to go by, those challenges will be met and overcome.