The Observer newspaper ran an editorial last week that stated vaping with e-cigarettes poses a “serious risk”. The article, “The Observer view on the dangers of assuming vaping is a safe alternative to smoking”, contained multiple factual errors, and smoking cessation experts have pointed out that the editorial misrepresents research and opinion.
What did the Observer say about the risks of vaping?
It wrote that the only people in favour of electronic cigarettes and UK eliquids were the tobacco industry and “to some extent, Public Health England”. It said this view was opposed by “public health experts, including the World Health Organisation”.
It said there is little evidence that vaping works as a quit-smoking tool, that it causes lung damage (including the American EVALI outbreak), and listed other risks including gum disease, and heart problems, and is a gateway to smoking in non-smokers.
What did the Observer recommend?
Unsurprisingly, the newspaper said the government should clamp down on selling regulations, ban advertising, implement plain packaging, increase the size of health warnings on the packaging and completely ban vaping in public spaces.
This seems draconian, is there evidence to support it?
Rather than being the product of new information, the Observer has regurgitated position statements from American anti-vape organisations which a driven billionaire funds.
So, did it ignore evidence?
Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?
And so would the Royal College of Physicians, the NHS, Cancer Research UK, the Royal Society for Public Health, and almost every other UK public health body.
Professor Sarah Jackson responded to point out that her latest peer-reviewed research paper confirms that there is “clear evidence that e-cigarettes offer a much less harmful alternative to smoking”.
Did anyone else respond?
Consumer organisation We Vape stated: “The Observer’s view on vaping is plain wrong…Sadly, the Observer’s 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.”
What did UK experts say about the article and vaping?
All of the leading lights involved in independent electronic cigarette research in the UK signed a joint letter to the Observer. Signatories included the likes of Professor Ann McNeill (responsible for the government’s evidence updates), Peter Hajek (gold standard quit studies), and Linda Bauld (who advises the Scottish government and advocates vaping ecigs for pregnant women).
They said: “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’.”
“Vaping is a harm reduction option for people trying to quit deadly tobacco smoking…We need to maximise the use of all available tools to help people quit smoking – including e-cigarettes.”
So, vaping is still OK?
Electronic cigarettes and UK-made e-liquids are still recommended to current smokers as a means of quitting by our public health bodies. No new evidence contradicts this position, in fact, all of the latest investigations are strengthening this position.