IBVTA responds to latest attacks on vaping
The UK has a legitimate, credible and responsible vaping industry, which has been subject to stringent regulatory requirements for over three and a half years now. Responsible businesses operate on an open book basis and act collaboratively with regulators to make sure that they are selling the safest products possible to their customers.
The misleading media reporting surrounding acute injuries and deaths associated with black market cannabis THC products in the US, are giving opponents of vaping nicotine the opportunity to make outlandish and baseless claims about their safety, including here in the UK.
Vaping is used by millions of adults worldwide who have switched from smoking cigarettes over the past ten plus years, without anything like the lung injury outbreak seen in the US. In the UK alone, there are over 3.6 million current vapers.
Details of case upon case emerging in the media with THC oil being mentioned should have given those reporting on the outbreak here pause to reflect on whether they were doing so accurately and responsibly. This misreporting is now so widespread we simply would not have the time to itemise each and every misleading headline.
Long time opponents of harm reduction and vaping were disappointingly given free reign by newspapers recently to draw links between the ongoing illicit THC oil issue in the US, with the heavily regulated and legal vaping market in the UK. This came after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had identified that these cases are linked to black market cannabis products, not nicotine containing e-liquids like those we produce.
This was followed by baseless attacks in academic journals on the UK’s positive and evidence based position on vaping. These attacks are being mounted despite no similar issues of acute lung injuries being seen in the UK, and the UK having the fastest falling smoking rates in decades, as more smokers switch to vaping.
The acute lung injuries have been identified by the US FDA and CDC as being linked to Vitamin E acetate and, more recently, even pesticides used in the manufacture of black market THC cannabis oil products. These reports began to emerge as early as the beginning of August. Despite this, the authorities there continued to warn about vaping in general, and not make clear the distinction between THC oil use and e-cigarette use in general. An e-cigarette is simply a delivery device. What matters in these cases is what it is being used to deliver.
In a recent podcast for the Journal of Addiction, Professor Robert West rightly pointed out that this failure to consider very basic epidemiological principles on the part of authorities in the US could be considered negligent.
This has given rise to needless bans and restrictions on the vaping products NOT causing the injuries. It is unthinkable that in some US states, these policy makers have been so whipped up by the moral panic about vaping, they are intent on restricting harm reducing products to adult smokers, while in all cases, leaving the tobacco cigarettes they replace, on the shelves. Professor John Britton of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies has called this reaction ‘’complete madness’’. In a BMJ opinion piece he goes on to say:
‘’..the UK experience also demonstrates that electronic cigarettes have a valuable part to play in reducing tobacco smoking and death and disability that smoking causes. Those who cite the precautionary principle as justification to discourage or prohibit electronic cigarettes ignore the fact that for the great majority of users, the counterfactual is premature death from tobacco smoking. Smoking kills. So does denying smokers opportunities to quit.’’
Astoundingly, two opponents of vaping are playing out the exact scenario suggested by Professor West in British newspapers; the conflation is giving rise for those with bias against vaping to come out of the shadows and claim ‘’told you so’’.
Two incidences of lipoid pneumonia have been attributed to e-cigarette use in the UK, despite the diluents in e-cigarette liquids not being lipids. False parallels are then drawn between these two cases of something which cannot be caused by the ingredients they claim, and the same issues as something which actually does contain lipids – cannabis THC oil. All this despite there being over 40 million other vapers worldwide who use products containing the same non-lipid diluents and not contracting lipoid pneumonia. As Professor Ann McNeill, professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, told The Independent newspaper recently, it “doesn’t really add up”.
Speaking on their most recent survey, Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said: “Although e-cigarettes are now the most popular quitting aid, our survey finds that in 2019 over a third of smokers have still never tried vaping. As Stoptober kicks off, we’d encourage smokers who haven’t done so yet, to give vaping a try.’’
It is a sorry state of affairs when some influencers that clearly support falling smoking rates go to such great lengths to confuse and mislead the public about vaping. The unintentional consequences must be of some comfort to those that would prefer the UK’s mass exodus from smoking does not continue.