|Would look better holding a P45|
Their use is not uncontroversial. Some feel they normalise smoking, while others insist that they allow former smokers to maintain addictions that they might otherwise have escaped. There is no evidence supporting either fear. Professor Robert West of UCL’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health notes that some health professionals may be wary of e-cigarettes because they resemble the bad old burning weed. There is also, in a manner more sinister, resistance from pharmaceutical companies. The tobacco industry, after all, is not the only one threatened by a cheap, clean, safer alternative to cigarettes. The makers of patches, gums and inhalators have even more to lose.
The government intends to license e-cigarettes as medicines from 2016, having by then come to a more advanced understanding of any risks they may carry. Certainly, their safety should be investigated and the sooner doctors can start prescribing e-cigarettes to smokers desperate to quit the better. Yet, much as a powerful pharmaceuticals lobby might like it if they were so classified, e-cigarettes are not quite medicines and there is a risk inherent in treating them as such.
Electronic cigarettes have thrived precisely because they can be sold cheaply and almost everywhere. While some use them in the hope of ending nicotine dependence altogether, others have no such intention. In either case, they have the potential to represent a formidable advance in public health. This time there really could be smoke without fire.Compare that calm and considered assessment of the debate with this one from Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies two months ago, where she simply repeats the fears for which The Times quite rightly reports that there is no evidence.
Don't let vaping, obesity and boozing become norms
Why are you against increased use of e-cigarettes?
If they were properly regulated as a medicine and we knew what was in them and the dose of nicotine, then they might play a useful role in stopping smoking. But they aren't, so at the moment we don't know their safety or the dose they deliver. They are often aimed at children with their flavourings – not only menthol but cookies and cream and bubblegum. They are sold rather cheaply and many of them are made in China, so I worry about what is in them. We have even got a verb for e-cigarette use: to vape. I am worried about normalising once again the activity of smoking. This matters particularly with children and adolescents.
So you are worried this could be a rerun of socially acceptable smoking?
Yes. Have you seen the adverts for e-cigarettes? They make them look cool and chic. In the Metrocentre in Newcastle they have a vaping boutique, which looks like a perfume boutique.Gasp!
And this is without mentioning rumours I've heard of her abject and insulting performance at the Public Health England forum on e-cigs recently.
Now, isn't the CMO meant to be rational and form opinions rooted in - you know, as the job title implies - dispassionate evaluation of data and science, as opposed to a media which is supposed to enjoy whipping up a frenzy based on scaremongery and junk science? The roles seem to have been reversed in this case.
Sally's silliness has been mentioned here before, but it's now becoming increasingly clear that she is either too easily manipulated by vested interests or just plain incompetent. Either way, it strongly indicates that she is unfit for purpose, vastly over-promoted to the position of CMO, and should be fired before she does any real damage.