Who is Professor Peter Hajek?

Professor of Clinical Psychology, Head of Psychology, and Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and The London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London, UK.

What is an oration?

It is a formal speech but can and does include humour to lighten the heavy nature of the content.

What is the Global Forum on Nicotine?

It is an event run by KAK, an organisation that “is committed to the development and promotion of evidence-based policies and interventions in the field of substance use and related areas of public health and public policy.”


What topics did the oration cover?

Global forum on nicotine

Who is Michael Russell?

Now sadly departed, he was the leading researcher into public health vis-à-vis nicotine use. During the 1970s-80s he realised people smoked to get nicotine and pioneered the notion of using nicotine replacement treatments to reduce incidence of smoking.

What did he find?

The faster the nicotine is delivered the more effective the treatment was.

What did this lead to?

From gum through to sprays and inhalators.

And towards the end of his career?

He produced the most widely cited paper on smoking harm reduction that has been used as a template for stop smoking services around the world.

Any other reasons why Michael Russell is getting a special mention?

He was an inspirational figure for those joining his team and conducting research with him, including Peter Hajek and Professor Robert West. He convinced them that evidence-based policy is the only way forward with regards harm reduction.

What does that mean for us?

Hajek states that the UK is at the cutting edge of harm reduction research.

Why have I never heard of him?

This maybe the case but if you have followed the campaigning going on in Europe over legislation you will have seen some of his quotes including the famous one:

“People smoke for nicotine but die from tar”

So, everyone buys in to his view?

No. The mention of Stanton Glantz drew a huge moan of despair from the audience!

Glantz Claiming Nicotine is dangerous

What do harm reduction specialists think of Glantz’ evidence?

“Waffle” and “contains no substance”.

Ahh, but is there evidence to support the claim of relative safety for nicotine?


Lung health safety

So, nicotine is safe?

No. There are groups of people for whom nicotine is dangerous, like pregnant women, but it is immeasurably safer vaping than smoking nicotine.

Are there benefits to nicotine to balance out the potential risk?

Oh yes…

Nicotine positive effects

Well then, the bodies responsible for public health must be supportive of his ideas?

Unfortunately not.

Hang on, what?

Although it would appear a “no-brainer” that the “endgame” should be that smokers switch to relatively harmless forms of nicotine delivery there is a controversy.

A controversy?


Goalposts moving from nicotine dangers

What does Peter Hajek say in response to the above points?

  • The ingredients are dangerous: “No, they aren’t!”
  • Luring of children: “No, it doesn’t!”
  • Normalization: “No, it doesn’t!”

What are the reasons for people being against e-Cigs?

First gut reaction to e cigarettes were negative

Any further reasons?

Pharmacutical industry has much to lose

And what does Peter Hajek think about that?

“Madness!” and that zealots like Glantz see fighting the tobacco industry as being more important and outweighing any benefits than and to tobacco harm reduction.

Does he provide evidence for that statement?

Yes. He quotes the British Medical Journal from 14th June 2013:

“The needs of smokers must not become the tail that wags the dog of tobacco control policy.”

…so, the TCP isn’t there to help smokers not to die!

This is madness! What on Earth is driving people to take such an idiotic position?

Hajek suggests that it is down to a “moral agenda”. He cites examples such as abortion, assisted dying and sexual behaviors as issues that meet with strong moral arguments.

They believe that feelings are as important as evidence and that you can cheat and lie to create ‘evidence’ to support their opinion. He says that people are only using evidence to convert people to their cause.

So, does Peter have a key question for them?

Yes, he does: he would like them all to be asked ‘do you believe that allowing e cigarettes into the market will lead to an increase in cigarette sales?’

re normalising smoking

Which leads to the risks and benefits of over-regulation, right?


If e-cigarettes are banned or subjected to crippling regulation (stricter than for cigarettes) some potential risks will be avoided but all the benefits will be removed and the traditional tobacco market will be strengthened.

Oh dear, I’m depressed now.

Don’t be. Peter is of the opinion that the numbers of individuals writing letters, giving presentations and arguing for logic, science and evidence-based e cig research and regulation will win the day.

Dave is a freelance writer for companies associated with tobacco harm reduction. He provides daily news coverage to Planet of the Vapes. He has been widely published in a number of print magazines focusing on vaping and tobacco harm reduction. A physicist that holds degrees and post-grad qualifications in business, physics, education, computer science and fine art.


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