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Clive Speaks Out

The EU is not doing enough to encourage the adoption of reduced tobacco harm products, according to policy expert Clive Bates, and he talks about COVID-19 too

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Experts, including Clive Bates, have told the European Union that it isn’t doing enough to combat disease in its ‘Beating Cancer Plan’ because it is failing to recognise the importance of vaping. Bates also spoke to Regulator Watch about teen vaping and the potential benefit of nicotine in the treatment of COVID-19 symptoms.

With the European Commission stating it is aiming to eradicate tobacco-related cancer, Clive Bates told EU Today, “that in order to beat cancer public authorities/national governments need to ‘use policy, regulation, fiscal measures and public services objectives to encourage people to stop smoking (or never start) by any means possible, including by switching to vaping, heated tobacco products, snus or oral nicotine products.”

He stated: “They should also recognise the limits of using coercive, punitive and stigmatising policies to promote smoking cessation and recognise the value of consumer interest in switching to lower risk products.”

Offering his opinions on the relationship between nicotine, vaping, and smoking to COVID-19, Clive told Regulator Watch’s Brent Stafford: “There doesn’t seem to be a protective effect to getting the disease in the first place. It may actually be a risk factor. Then it comes to the progression of the disease. Many people get the disease, they don’t suffer severe symptoms, it doesn’t take them as far as hospitalisation. Hospitalisation is the key issue as that’s the bit that stresses the healthcare system.”

What research has shown is that smokers are strikingly underrepresented in the numbers of people who wind up in hospital in the first place. That is where there is possibly, and I repeat possibly, some kind of protective effect.”

Once in hospital there doesn’t seem to be a protective effect – in fact, the outlook for smokers and former smokers is worse.”

Speaking about what could be happening, Clive then pointed out that when people are admitted to hospital, they lose access to the nicotine that could have been providing a “protective effect” because they’re made to quit smoking.

Following the release of a number of research preprints, the tobacco control community immediately accused the authors of having unreliable data. Clive says the theory that nicotine could help is “backed up by a series of papers that stress biologically plausible mechanisms by which nicotine could protect against the disease.”

He stated there is “reasonably good evidence” that nicotine helps to suppress the “cytokine storm” caused by the virus – where it pushes the body’s defence mechanisms into overdrive, an “immune system overreaction”, causing the major problems.

Brent Stafford cheekily pointed out that ‘if’ nicotine was demonstrated to work in reducing the severity of the COVID-19 symptoms, public health would baulk at prescribing it to under-18s because of the danger of causing “brain damage”.

This gave Clive the opportunity to highlight that nicotine replacement therapies are licenced in the United Kingdom for use in 12yr-old children and over.

He went on to expand on examples where nicotine has been proven to help in combatting disease – not least the huge success in preventing Parkinson’s. He called some in the tobacco control community “insane” for not welcoming news like this and that it seems like they’d rather people suffer from COVID-19 than the solution come from a tobacco leaf.

Clive Bates’ full interview is linked below.


  • Regulator Watch with Clive Bates – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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