For anyone not familiar with written questions, an MP is allowed to ask as many as he/she likes and they are slated well in advance in order for civil servants to compile a response for the minister concerned so have to be well-worded to avoid an uninformative reply. However, they are also limited to a certain number per day so - although an MP may want to ask dozens of questions on a single subject - the responses themselves are often released on a staggered basis. A good example is Steve Baker questioning each government department on their policies toward granting taxpayer funds to charities, as reported here in 2012.
Well, since Davies's first published response last week, others have been trickling through, and I suspect he is subtlely supportive of e-cigs.
Today's releases asked Jane Ellison if she could estimate savings to the NHS of e-cig use, and whether she has bothered to confirm or deny that passive vaping is a thing. She couldn't do either, of course, because the Department of Health outsources all its research to the tobacco control industry's domestic (ASH, Bath, Stirling, UKCTAS) and supra-national (EU, WHO), unelected ban-hunters. The way these things work, there may perhaps be more questions she hasn't a scooby about in the pipeline too, so keep 'em peeled.
There was, however, one of Davies's questions that she could answer:
David Davies (Monmouth, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many serious health events have been recorded per thousand (a) e-cigarette users, (b) users of nicotine replacement therapies and (c) users of the Champix form of varenicline in the last year.Apparently, this is covered by the MHRA who, as we know, have studied e-cigs so closely that they're certain that all models currently on the market must be banned in 2016.
They're not so great at comparing the harms of e-cigs per capita with other nicotine products, though, so Ellison could only provide absolute figures.
Jane Ellison (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health; Battersea, Conservative)
The following table shows the total number of serious UK spontaneous ‘suspected’ ADR reports received by the MHRA between 23 July 2013 and 22 July 2014 broken down for E-Cigarettes, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (excluding E-Cigarettes) and Varenicline:
Total Serious ReportsFive. That's it. Just five.
Nicotine Replacement therapy 75
All that bluster about "we don't know what's in them" and "they must undergo medical regulation to ensure there is no harm". For just five - count 'em; one, two, three, four, five - recorded cases. So few they'd all fit in a London black cab.
Whereas the medically licensed - and therefore perfectly safe and ubiquitously-prescribed - NRT and Champix have contributed 75 times that many incidents in the same space of time.
Now, the latest estimate is that there are 2.1 million e-cig users in the UK, and I'll bet that there are nowhere near that many using patches or gum, and a vanishingly small number using Champix by comparison. So the increased relative risk from using pharma products over e-cigs is almost certainly well in excess of the 7,500% we can ascertain from absolute numbers.
Why, then, the huge furore over e-cigs? Where is the outrage from furrow-browed public health officials about the dangers of Champix and the irresponsible "wild west" attitude of those profiteers at Pfizer et al? Where are the demands for an immediate ban pending further intensive research?