McKee The Out And Outlier

Posted 26th April 2019 by Dave Cross
Professor Martin McKee filled assorted newspaper column inches with nonsense earlier this week. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine academic then took to BBC Radio 4’s ‘World at One’ programme, where his ignorant position was highlighted by Deborah Arnott, Chief executive of ASH.

McKee has been repeating the same position since 2015. Despite evidence and expert opinion to the contrary, he has resolutely failed to take on board any coherent argument put to him. The video below demonstrates how Deborah Arnott debunked his arguments last year.

McKee’s arguments demolished in 2018

McKee resumed his attack on Public Health England on World at One. He began: “My concerns about these products being promoted, given the very limited evidence they’re effective in helping people to quit, the uncertainty about the long-term health effects, and in particularly the evidence from the United States – where one product has been marketed particularly aggressively – that they are leading to a very steep rise in the use of nicotine among young people.”

Denialism, whataboutism and misdirection.

“We don’t have good up-to-date data from the UK yet,” he continued, “but we’re certainly hearing a lot of reports from school teachers and others that these particular products, the JUUL product, are capturing a growing share of the market among young people.”


Here McKee continues to ignore the findings from Cancer Research UK’s sponsored Smoking Toolkit Study (STS), yet he is happy to present anecdotal evidence from his limited echo chamber conversations as fact.

Dr Lion Shahab and Professor Robert West commented in the most recent STS Trends report: “E-cigarette use by never smokers remains negligible but use among long-term ex-smokers has grown.”

ASH UK is the nation’s leading anti-smoking body, if there were a credible threat posed by vaping then Deborah Arnott would be speaking out about it. She responded to McKee: “Research that Martin didn’t cite, a recent study publish, a randomised control trial, showed it’s twice as successful as traditional nicotine gum and patches, long term in helping smokers quit.”

“The evidence from the UK is that there’s not significant youth uptake. The regulations are working as they should and allowing adult smokers to quit while not addicting a new generation.”


The issue isn’t just that he is blind to evidence while being open to the corrupt science-for-cash being produced in parts of America; it’s his wholesale hypocrisy. He recently wrote on Twitter about Extinction Rebellion’s Rupert Read being, “another example of a well informed young person being challenged by a TV presenter while middle aged politicians talking nonsense get a free run.”

McKee is precisely one of those (still just) middle-aged men being given a free run by the media despite presenting vacuous and specious arguments. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times he is made to look a blinkered fool. It’s time news organisations stopped including him for balance just as they don’t obtain quotes from the Flat Earth Society when discussing astronomical topics. McKee is an outlier in the UK when it comes to tobacco harm reduction.

The full radio interview is linked below.


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