Stoptober Attacked in The Lancet

Posted 27th December 2017 by Dave Cross
Stuart Flint (Leeds Beckett University) and Arwel Jones (Lincoln University) have written a joint letter to The Lancet medical journal, decrying the inclusion of electronic cigarettes in the recent Stoptober campaign. They are worried that Swaptober will overshadow Stoptober, bring with it untold dangers and prevent smokers from quitting.

Flint, taking the lead role and handling correspondence on the matter, has a questionable background. A psychologist with a specific interest in obesity, his working day revolves around thinking of ways to get people exercising and nothing to do with smoking or the developments in the electronic cigarette market.

Jones is similarly not involved in smoking cessation. His area of expertise is encouraging those with COPD to take up exercise in order to overcome their condition. One could conclude that smokers switching to vaping would rob them of candidates for their programs, and is a possible source of their real concern.

They write: “Despite substantial gaps in research, e-cigarettes are promoted as part of smoking cessation efforts, including in the Public Health England (PHE) campaign. Should the suggestion of e-cigarettes as a lesser evil be promoted when evidence of their long-term effect is insufficient?”

“The presentation of e-cigarettes alongside evidence-based medicinal products (licensed nicotine-replacement therapy) seems premature, and their portrayal as quitting aids under the Stoptober message of ‘if you can stop smoking for 28-days, you are five times more likely to quit’ is misleading.”

Commenting on their letter, Flint said: “There is, at best, very low-quality evidence of E-cigarettes promoting smoking cessation or reduction, and insufficient data for confident estimation. Given that further understanding of the health implications of E-cigarettes is needed, promotion to the public, including youth and vulnerable populations who are at risk of shorter-term effects, is not an appropriate implementation strategy.”

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“NICE have called for caution regarding recommendations for E-cigarettes as a suitable alternative due to the lack of evidence regarding long-term health effects. This contradicts the views of a range of expert advice, which advocates wide promotion of E-cigarettes as a substitute for smoking.”

“The contradictory stance of the UK’s expert health organisations is likely to confuse public understanding. Until there is substantial evidence on the health implications of E-cigarettes, it is irresponsible, unethical and potentially harmful for health organisations to promote E-cigarettes.”

It seems disingenuous at the very least to downplay evidence from Public Health England, the Royal College of Physicians, the Cochrane review and countless actual experts – given that the pair are far from well-versed in this area. Maybe the academics have ulterior motives for drawing attention to their parochial university departments?


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