The Lamentable Lancet

Posted 5th December 2018 by Mawsley
The latest issue of The Lancet carries yet another anonymous piece, repeating the old arguments against vaping and tobacco harm reduction. It champions a return to the policies that failed millions of smokers and advocates getting tougher on vaping. While warning about history repeating itself, it pushes for a return to stalled smoking rates and failed approaches.

The Lancet has a history of attacking vaping, and enabling the worst opponents of vaping to attack vapers. Indeed, it was in 2014 when a letter from Martin McKee, Simon Chapman, Mike Daube and Stanton Glantz was published, laying into Lorien Jollye, a member of the Electronic Cigarette Consumers Association and of the New Nicotine Alliance. Lorien has the temerity to write to the journal about the likes of Chapman insulting or ignoring vapers, “in a shockingly aggressive way”.

“Are we unreasonable and silly for expecting to have a say in what's happening with our lives? Decisions are being made about us, but definitely without us,” wrote Lorien.

It marked the beginning of the Age of Umbrage in tobacco control circles. These men had sat in their offices for decades and were used to not being questioned. They believed they were experts and therefore should be able to dictate their version of the truth. They responded, as Lorien wrote, by damning, insulting and ignoring – while claiming they were the victims of orchestrated attacks.

Few bothered to stand up to them when it came to tobacco cigarettes, but the advent of vaping created an army of vapers – people who had taken an interest in the actual science. They were labelled by McKee et al as being “trolls”, “astroturf” and more besides. Chapman took great joy in writing a 2015 article about why he blocks vapers – “Why I block trolls on Twitter”.

It can’t be coincidental that from this moment the small cohort of vocal opponents to harm reduction made it their mission to destroy vaping. To that end, McKee has played his part with his submissions to The Lancet (some by anonymous pen). This journal dotes on McKee: “Just conversing with Martin McKee is liable to cause jetlag. A champion of European health care, he is a blur of kinetic energy, as he travels around the world to engage researchers and policy makers in neglected health issues of central and eastern Europe.”

Whenever a positive piece of evidence-based news crops up, McKee pens another piece (this one with the limited Simon Capewell to decry Public Health England again). Hiding behind the precautionary principle, McKee never considers about the ramifications of not accepting vaping.

And so, this week, another article crops up – again, anonymously.

E-cigarettes - new product, old tricks” would be better titled “Tobacco controllers – new article, old nonsense”, as it rehashes all of the tired opposing arguments and slurs as it bemoans “a new mainstream addiction”.

It begins with a reference to Big Tobacco, Philip Morris International, and “deplorable” promotion practices, “to persuade guests…to believe that e-cigarettes are harmless.”

Teen epidemics, “unforeseen future health effects” and flavours all get a name check before it cites one of McKee’s anonymous articles: “an Editorial in The Lancet covering the UK's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on e-cigarettes.”

It concludes: “We are aware of [vaping’s] potential to create generations of nicotine addicts, which should be enough to trigger stricter regulations on these products.”

The likes of McKee, Chapman, Daube and Glantz don’t care about reducing harm, smokers – they just want to reduce the level of questioning holding them to account. They are smarting and they won’t stop until the greatest harm reduction tool ever invented is consigned to the bin of history. They want an end to the Age of Umbrage so they can return to the Age of Haughty Complacence.

The Lancet should be ashamed.

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