Despite the positivity surrounding vaping in the broad majority of British public health and tobacco control circles, the media still seems to love a good negative news story. Sunderland AFC football club head coach Lee Johnson felt he was qualified to spout nonsense about vaping to talkSPORT radio. [link]
Stoptober began with the NHS telling the truth: “In recent years, e-cigarettes have become a very popular stop smoking aid in the UK. Also known as vapes or e-cigs, they're far less harmful than cigarettes and can help you quit smoking for good.”
Hopefully people prefer to listen to the NHS rather than a 3rd Division football manager when it states: “Many thousands of people in the UK have already stopped smoking with the help of an e-cigarette. There's growing evidence that they can be effective. Using an e-cigarette can help you manage your nicotine cravings. To get the best out of it, make sure you're using it as much as you need to and with the right strength of nicotine in your e-liquid.
“A major UK clinical trial published in 2019 found that, when combined with expert face-to-face support, people who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking were twice as likely to succeed as people who used other nicotine replacement products, such as patches or gum. You will not get the full benefit from vaping unless you stop smoking cigarettes completely.”
The UK Vaping Industry Association joined in with Stoptober by joining forces with the world’s most successful stop smoking app, Smoke Free, to encourage more smokers to completely give up their habit by using a range of evidence-based alternatives to conventional cigarettes.
Leading vape chain VPZ expanded its Vape Clinic service to cover the country. Doug Mutter, Director of VPZ said: “As the UK’s leading vaping specialist, we are spearheading the fight against the nation’s number one killer –smoking.
Public Health England’s Stoptober was supported by regional quit services like that in Northamptonshire – which found its efforts were complimented by statements from the Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service: “Vaping also reduces the risk of fires caused by smoking materials, although always make sure you use the correct charging cable for any rechargeable devices and don't vape under smoke detectors as this may set off the alarm!”
The positivity surrounding Stoptober was swiftly crushed by the proceedings at the World Health Organisation’s COP9. The lead up witnessed feverish work from advocates and organisations.
The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction released a set of briefing papers detailing the evidence [link], and a report titled Fighting The Last War [link]. Doctor Mendelsohn launched into the Australian public health organisations bent on spreading lies about vaping and harm reduction [link], and one hundred specialists in nicotine science, policy and practice wrote to the 182 countries taking part in COP9 [link].
“Regrettably, WHO has been dismissive of the potential to transform the tobacco market from high-risk to low-risk products. WHO is rejecting a public health strategy that could avoid millions of smoking-related deaths.”
The New Nicotine Alliance welcomed the letter, saying: “In our view, this is well overdue and it is to the signatories’ credit that they are speaking up.” [link]
Politicians and organisations pushed for the UK to promote vaping and tobacco harm reduction at COP9, but shamefully we did not take up the opportunity to help smokers around the world.
In fact, just Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary, Teodoro Locsin Jr. Secretary Locsi spoke up for tobacco harm reduction – and was attacked as a result.
“We salute his bravery at COP9 for promoting the Philippines’ balanced and evidence-based approach to safer nicotine products. Opponents and officials have since done their best to discredit Secretary Locsin and disrespect our country’s democracy and sovereignty, but they have failed badly,” says Peter Dator, president of consumer group Vapers PH and CAPHRA member.
Despite the UK’s reluctance to promote vaping to the world, it has become a runaway train at home – and then came the announcement that the process to apply to obtain medical approval for ecigs was going to be made more efficient.
John Dunne, Director General of the UKVIA, said: “The government deserves huge praise for taking this bold decision to look more closely at the use of vaping when it comes to smoking cessation and for taking an evidence-based, science-led approach rather than the nonsensical anti-vaping, anti-harm reduction stance of some countries.”
IBVTA board member Liam Humberstone said: “It is positive news that the government is again thinking of recognising the health benefits of e-cigarettes in helping people to stop smoking. But the path to putting them on prescription is longer and more complex than people think. The issue is whether independent vaping firms would be able finance that work.”
VPZ’s Director Doug Mutter said that vaping products being prescribed on the NHS in England could provide a huge leap forward in the country’s ambitions to be smoke free by 2030.
Dr Sharon Cox said: “In what feels like a real shift in support, licensed e-cigarettes may be offered on NHS prescription. Sounds great! The challenge is will they reach people who we know do not attend the stop smoking service?”