Carry On Daily Mail

Posted 5th February 2020 by Dave Cross
It’s a case of ‘Carry On Screaming’ for anybody reading the Daily Mail who is remotely interested in the truth about tobacco harm reduction and vaping. The newspaper persists in allowing fringe cranks to pontificate about something they barely understand. This week, the Mail invited Professor Simon Capewell to thrust his lies into the public domain again; a poor remake of ‘Carry On Dick’.

“Questions are being raised over whether smoking e-cigarettes poses health risks,” says the Daily Mail. “Is vaping really that much safer than cigarettes?”

It’s a question that doesn’t need to be posed; we know vaping can’t be “safe” because nothing is – but logic and all the reasonable research points to it being immensely safer than smoking.

The paper cites two deaths (that still are to receive a coroner’s report) and twenty incidents of adverse reactions to vaping, but it fails to mention something ASH UK feels is important: “Smoking accounts for approximately 96,000 deaths a year in the United Kingdom. About half of all life-long smokers will die prematurely.”

Currently, there are around 3.6 million people vaping in the UK. Even ‘if the two deaths are related to ecig use, this would constitute a risk profile of 0.00006%; this makes vaping safer than driving a car, jogging or dancing at a party [link].

Simon Capewell’s opposition to tobacco harm reduction will carry on regardless.

From the outset, he relies on tired anecdotal opposition rather than fact:

  • Made-up flavours? Check.
  • Cartoon characters? Check.
  • Marketing colours? Check.
  • Advertising? Check.
  • Cocktail of chemicals? Check.
  • Formaldehyde? Check.
  • Cancer fear? Check.
  • Young people? Check.

Then simple Simon throws shade at Public Health England’s “95% safer than smoking” figure: “it's this statistic which is the most dangerous — and potentially catastrophic — flaw in the 'vaping is safe' hypothesis.”

Maybe Capewell missed it, but “safer than” isn’t the same as “safe”.

Basically, he’s worried about things he doesn’t know anything about: “Updated heating coils mean many of today's e-cigarettes are ten to 20 times more powerful than most of the models that formed the basis of the safety information supported by Public Health England. This means more aerosol is produced.”

PHE carry out an annual review, so it has continually assessed risk based on the latest research - not outdated studies.

Then he focusses on the “many youngsters” who are “drawn in by the colours, flavours and ease of purchase”. This, Capewell says, “is particularly problematic.”

Why doesn’t he try looking at last year’s report into electronic cigarette use by British teens, produced by Action on Smoking and Health? The report pours cold water on almost everything Capewell has to say, but then if he did look at studies like rather than cherry pick American junk science he’d have to adopt a more nuanced position – something that would limit his potential to have his ego massaged by being asked to comment by gutter journalists.

Ultimately, responding “no” to the question as to whether vaping is safer than smoking is nonsensical, it’s the language of a dangerous crank who is putting lives at risk with disinformation.


  • Smoking statistics, ASH UK – [link]
  • Ecig use in young people, ASH UK – [link]
  • Is vaping safer than smoking, Daily Mail – [link]

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