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Whitty's Bias On Show

Professor Sir Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England has passed further comment about vaping and raises the spectre of an e-liquid flavour ban

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Professor Sir Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England has passed further comment about vaping and raises the spectre of an e-liquid flavour ban. In an article distributed on the Gov.UK website, Professor Whitty goes beyond simply saying that that marketing vapes to children is unacceptable and should only have a role in helping smokers quit by speaking about flavours and cannabis.

He prefaces his comments by saying the key points about vaping are that it is safer for smokers, so they should switch, but non-smokers shouldn’t use vape products and “marketing vapes to children is utterly unacceptable.”

He goes on to remind everyone that smoking remains the UK’s number one cause of preventable illness and death; that tobacco causes heart disease, strokes, many cancers, dementia and lung disease – “among others”. That the use of tobacco cause harm to the user and the friends and loved ones around them.

The cigarette industry model has always been to addict people to nicotine as early as legally possible, in the great majority of cases as teenagers. Once addicted, most smokers subsequently want to quit but this is very difficult,” he states.

It is curious that he raises the oft cited model in relation to vaping. This becomes clear as he accuses people promoting the use of nicotine products as pro-choice of doing the opposite. Despite the Royal Society for Public Health saying that using nicotine is no worse than drinking a cup of coffee, Professor Whitty reveals his prohibitionist credentials by saying: “To be pro nicotine addiction is to be anti-choice.”

Using vapes (e-cigarettes) is a quitting tool many addicted smokers find effective, and given the multiple and immense health risks of smoking it is much safer to vape than to smoke. Swapping from smoking to vaping is therefore a positive health move.

- Professor Sir Chris Whitty

But the return to good messaging doesn’t last long as he returns to worrying about things that ‘might’ be but haven’t been shown to exist and claims that the only reason nicotine exists in vapes is to addict the users.

Likewise, he believes marketing directly to children is “undoubtedly happening”.

In England, the proportion of 11 to 15 year olds using vapes increased from 6% to 9% from 2018 to 2021 and is still rising,” he states – but he is wrong. The ASH survey showed it absolutely has not risen over the last 12 months. It’s a shameful misuse of statistics to support a shaky series of claims.

Then he rounds on the things he thinks should be addressed (from an ideological not evidenced position):

  • Colours
  • Favours
  • Cheap disposable options

Unsafe, illegal vapes have also been pushed in our communities, with recent reports showing they can contain dangerous chemicals like lead and nickel. High levels of inhaled lead damages children’s central nervous system and brain development. Some products contain nicotine when claiming they do not, or contain harmful cannabis THC chemicals,” Whitty shamefully continues, stoking fears of drugs and mentioning one very unscientific review of illicit vapes. It all feels very much like a personal rather than a professional attack on tobacco harm reduction. For all of his stating that smokers should switch, it’s difficult to see how he correlates support for harm reduction with his fear spreading?

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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