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Observer Danger

A team of experts have responded vociferously to last week’s ridiculous anti-vape editorial carried by The Observer newspaper

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Last week, The Observer carried an editorial titled “The Observer view on the dangers of assuming vaping is a safe alternative to smoking”. The ignorant piece pushed forward a position that “e-cigarettes can carry serious risks”, regurgitating commentary more typical of a Bloomberg funded hit piece.

It said that the only people supporting the widespread adoption of vaping products as replacement for cigarettes were “the tobacco industry – and, to some extent, Public Health England”. Clearly a lie.

On the other,” it continued, “public health experts, including the World Health Organization, point to its dangers”, adding that the WHO concludes: “To date, evidence on the use of e-cigarettes as a cessation aid is inconclusive.”

Its list of “significant health risks” included:

  • Acute lung injuries
  • Collapsed lungs
  • Gum disease
  • Heart issues
  • Gateway
  • Flavours
  • Toxicants
  • Scant regulations
  • Bad advertising
  • False nicotine levels

The editorial concluded by recommending: “sales should be tightly regulated, with no advertising, plain packaging, health warnings and a ban in public spaces”.

We Vape slammed the slanted article: “The Observer’s view on vaping is plain wrong. With 8 million people around the world dying from smoking, the Observer is worrying about a product which is 95% safer than smoking according to the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England.

“Unlike smoking no one has died from vaping. Yet, they use evidence of illegally manufactured cannabis products causing illness to attack nicotine vaping.

They cite the Bloomberg funded WHO as some kind of honest broker when it is clearly not. Sadly, the Observers view will keep people smoking and dying. Harm reduction is working across the globe to remove the harm caused by smoking and replace it with relatively benign nicotine use.”

The consumer group was not alone.

This Sunday, the newspaper printed a response letter jointly signed by:

  • Prof Ann McNeill, professor of tobacco addiction, King’s College London
  • Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, associate professor, University of Oxford
  • Prof Caitlin Notley, professor of addiction sciences, Norwich Medical School, UEA
  • Prof Nick Hopkinson, professor of respiratory medicine, Imperial College, London
  • Prof Paul Aveyard, professor of behavioural medicine, University of Oxford
  • Prof Linda Bauld, professor of public health, University of Edinburgh
  • Prof John Britton, professor emeritus of epidemiology, University of Nottingham
  • Dr Leonie Brose, reader in addiction education and nicotine research, King’s College London
  • Prof Jamie Brown, co-director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, UCL
  • Dr Katie East, research associate, King’s College London
  • Prof Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, QMUL
  • Dr Sarah Jackson, principal research fellow, Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, UCL
  • Dr Debbie Robson, senior lecturer in Tobacco Harm Reduction, King’s College London
  • Prof Lion Shahab, co-director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, UCL
  • Dr Erikas Simonavičius, research associate, King’s College London
  • Eve Taylor, research assistant, King’s College London, and
  • Prof Robert West, professor emeritus of health psychology, UCL

The experts state that the editorial simply doesn’t “match the science”.

They state: “No credible scientist says vaping is ‘completely safe’ – few things are. The point is that vapes are far, far less harmful than smoking. Moreover, the public health consensus that vaping is a ‘much less harmful’ alternative to smoking is based on robust independent reviews of the scientific evidence, not ‘assumptions’.

“The evidence on whether vaping helps smokers to quit is not ‘mixed’, as your editorial suggests. The weight of high-quality evidence – from Cochrane, among others – shows e-cigarettes are more effective than nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers quit. Cochrane reviews are a highly trusted source of objective health evidence used by policy makers worldwide.

“Vaping is a harm reduction option for people trying to quit deadly tobacco smoking and the availability of e-cigarettes in the UK has helped many to do this. If all smokers switched to vaping, many lives could be saved and much cancer, heart and lung disease avoided.

“The UK’s ‘liberal approach’ very clearly does not recommend use of e-cigarettes by people who have never smoked. The public health community is united in the need for measures to make e-cigarettes less available and appealing to children. Smoking drives preventable death, disease and health inequalities. We need to maximise use of all available tools to help people quit smoking – including e-cigarettes.”


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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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