The TPD Effect Could Be Discouraging Smokers to Quit
The news that half of the UK’s vapers are ex-smokers is of course great news however that’s only half the story.
The results of the annual Smokefree GB survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of ASH [Action on Smoking and Health] have just been published and make for interesting reading.
12696 people were quizzed on their vaping and smoking habits with the results showing that almost 3million people now vape in the UK.
There’s a hardcore 1.5 million vapers that have given up smoking completely – a four-fold increase in 5 years thanks to e-cigarettes – whilst the rest are ‘dual users’ as in they vape and smoke.
Professor Ann McNeill a Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London said:
This year’s ASH survey finds that around 1.5 million vapers are ex-smokers, for the first time a larger number than those who continue to smoke.
This is encouraging news as we know that vapers who continue to smoke continue to be exposed to cancer-causing substances. The message for the 1.3 million vapers who still smoke is that they need to go further and switch completely.
All very worthy and good news however it’s the bare faced cheek of ASH that needs to be looked at here.
If there’s been one health organization that in its fledgling days the vape industry needed on side it was ASH.
However and from as early as 2010 ASH has consistently and persistently been anything but pro-vaping including calling for a total ban  unless vape products were ‘medicalised’.
And don’t forget that I sat through the Lords Fatal Motion debate last year in which our Lordships debated whether the TPD should be adopted with ASH campaigning vigorously AGAINST removing TPD legislation in the UK prior to and during the debate!
So for ASH to say in their press release the message that vaping is 95% safer than smoking is NOT getting through to the UK’s 9million smokers – or as they put it ‘is a communications challenge’ – is at best a bit of a cheek to say the least!
Add to that ASH announcing that ‘the rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end…’ and you have this old fellah sucking on his 4ml tank in bemusement!
Hey I’m all for U Turns when faced with the facts – but in this case they’ve done a U Turn whilst claiming they were the good guys all along AND setting themselves up as the men in white hats to ride in and save the day.
ASH says it doesn’t understand the downturn in smokers turning to e-cigarettes and vaping:
… growth has slowed a great deal in the last couple of years and fewer smokers year on year understand the reduced risk of vaping compared to smoking tobacco.
Ummm maybe that’s down to sensationalist anti-vaping media stories propped up by wishy washy ‘health organizations’ umming and aahing about the benefits?
ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott has an answer for that:
The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end while over a third of smokers have still never tried e-cigarettes, saying the main reasons are concerns about the safety and addictiveness of e-cigarettes. It’s very important smokers realise that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking.
Maybe if they’d bothered promoting vaping as 95% safer when the Royal College of Physicians said as much we’d have seem way more than 1.5million ex-smokers now vaping!
Incidentally it was the RCP who helped set up ASH in the first place lol.
Cancer Charity Cash Cow
I know I know I’m on my soapbox again but just for a moment think about this point.
ASH receives funding in part from both Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation – both of those are charities.
So these three ‘players’ have a vested interest in the very diseases caused by smoking.
As the documentary a Billion Lives subtly points out – if all the smokers in the world packed up and took to vaping the funding for this multi-million pound charities would drop significantly overnight.
Remember all these cancer charities are huge operations employing thousands of people with CEOs earning high figure sums – so do they really want to promote healthier options?
Cancer is of course absolutely devastating but it’s also a cash cow – it’s a bit of a red pill blue pill statement but at least think about it 😉
OK I’ve just had a suck on a 4ml tank containing 18mg of nicotine so I’m a little calmer now 😉
NNA Speaking Truth to ‘Power’
It’s to the excellent New Nicotine Alliance [NNA] we have to visit to get to the nitty gritty of what this ASH survey is really about.
They say – quite rightly – that maybe the downturn in those taking up vaping is due to not only ridiculous media scare stories but also the damage the perception of the TPD has had on the wider public.
In answer to the ASH remark that the message is not getting through to smokers they say this:
It is certainly true that public misperceptions about the risk of vaping relative to smoking have played a significant role in discouraging many smokers to switch to the very much safer alternative.
Vaping is estimated to be at least 95% safer than smoking for the consumer, and there are no known risks for bystanders. But what is driving that misperception? What do we do with potentially dangerous products?
We restrict their availability, we restrict their use, we restrict the advertising of them, we stifle their innovation via regulations and we force the manufacturers to emblazon them with scary warnings – just as the EU TPD and its UK incarnation the TRPR plus a myriad of public and private space usage bans have done with e-cigarettes.
It’s hardly surprising that the public then seize upon every garbage media report of shoddy science that surfaces and believes it to be true – the government has all but told them so in its regulation of the products.
Well put indeed!
As to the survey stating that only 6% of vapers currently vape on nicotine strength over the 20mg TPD strength barrier the NNA said:
The figures in the ASH survey are however, misleading.
It is well known that very many people use higher strength liquids when they first start vaping and then reduce the strength as their techniques improve or they move to more highly powered devices.
Informal surveys among vapers indicate that as many as one in three people used strengths above 20mg/ml when they first started.
The ASH survey does not ask this question, but it is likely therefore that up to 500,000 of the current ex smoking vapers may have found switching more difficult had higher strengths not been available.
Pulling no punches the NNA sums the ‘fudged figures’ perfectly:
The reason that vaping numbers have stalled may very well be because smokers are no longer switching and the sample used in the survey now contains a higher proportion of more experienced vapers, who tend to use lower strength liquids.
This is a perfect example of how to take something that was improving lives in the real world and utterly bugger it up. The ASH survey illustrates that beautifully.
To Sum Up
Of course we should welcome the amount of people now quitting the cancer sticks and turning to vaping.
And if a little begrudgingly we should also welcome ASH looking as if they’re coming on board – but don’t hold your breath – it’s actions not words we need to see.
They really should have been front and centre whilst the TPD debates were raging – instead they wimped out and did all they could to penalize and seemingly added to the myth that vaping was somehow dangerous to your health.
I link week after week to scientific vape research results that show it isn’t – it’s that simple.
I have this ‘vaping is bad for you’ debate in any pub I go in that allows vaping and trust me the public’s misconception is led by outrageous tabloid stories backed up to some extent by limp health organizations like ASH.
So whilst I welcome the results of the survey – I shall be keeping a keen eye on just how they tackle the ‘communications challenge’.