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A Call to the Welsh Government: Work With Us, Not Against Us, On Ecigs

The Welsh Flag: A red dragon on a white and green background.

tough on e-cigarettes and harm reduction means easy on cigarettes and harm

Clive Bates, former director on Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and former Welsh Assembly Employee

The Welsh Government has called for ecigarettes to be banned in public places, and launched a series of attacks on ecigarettes via it’s public health twitter account.

In this article, we deal with the arguments, and suggest an alternative approach the government could take.

1. “We don’t know what is in electronic cigarettes.”

Siegel and Cahn (2010) pointed out that while we have yet to identify many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke, we know exactly what is in electronic cigarettes.

And that’s a lot better than what we know is in tobacco cigarettes.

none of the more than 10,000 chemicals present in tobacco smoke, including over 40 known carcinogens, has been shown to be present in the cartridge or vapor of electronic cigarettes in anything greater than trace quality.

Source: Palgrave Journals

Like other ECITA members, we test our eliquid in a government approved laboratory. However, there ARE problems with some small companies who do not yet test their eliquid.

As we answer below is not to attack all ecigarette companies (including the ones that are doing things properly), but to enforce sensible regulation that would make testing of eliquid mandatory.

2. “Using ecigs means you’re still addicted to nicotine. There is no ‘safe’ way to continue smoking”

It’s correct that ecigarettes are not 100% safe, but then neither is coffee.

That’s a relevant comparison, because many scientists believe there is an coffee and ecigarettes have roughly the same level of risk.

David Sweanor, former adviser to the WHO on tobacco control, addresses the question of safety by pointing out:

“Rather than the unattainable standard of ‘safe’ we should be thinking in terms of ‘safer’. Despite the risks associated with soccer, I would, for instance, prefer my children play soccer rather than play with live hand grenades.”

(Check this post out for more scientist’s quotes on ecigarettes.)

Crucially, for use in public places, a number of studies have identified that there is no risk for non-users of ecigarettes.

As for addiction, there is emerging evidence that nicotine on its own is not as addictive as nicotine combined with tobacco:

  • ecigarette users use ecigarette less
  • time to first use is longer
  • a study on rats found that rats respond better to nicotine combined with compounds from tobacco than to nicotine on its own
  • scientists such as Dr Ettter believe that because ecigarettes deliver nicotine more slowly, they are less addictive

However, the key point for smokers is that they have access to a product that scientists believe is much safer than tobacco cigarettes.

3. “Some ads for #ecigs call them an aid to quitting. No large-scale evidence they help people quit. Regulation & independent research needed.”

The Welsh Government is  correct that no large scale trial has been carried out. However, there have been a number of small studies which has shown positive results (see here and here). In addition, the fact between that 1.3 and 2 million people in the UK use electronic cigarettes show that e-cigarettes DO work for many people.

However, advertising ecigarettes as quitting aids is illegal, so if the Welsh government is concerned about illegal adverts, it simply needs to enforce existing regulations.

It’s also true that more research is needed, but there has already been substantial research into ecigarettes which, so far, has been incredibly positive. (See ECigarette Research for the latest developments.)

Perhaps the Welsh assembly could take the more positive line of supporting ongoing research into electronic cigarettes rather than stating that research is needed?

4. Does vaping normalise smoking?

With millions of smokers switching to ecigarettes, which increasibly bear little resemblance to regular cigarettes, surely we’re normalising not smoking?

And with a person dying every 90 minutes from smoking, surely the last thing you need to do is attack an alternative to smoking which even the MHRA admits is orders of magnitude safer than smoking.

Crucially, experts argue that vaping poses no risk to non-users – claims which are backed up by studies such as this

Finally, denormalisation has not been a success, with a fall of just 1% in the Welsh smoking rate since the smoking ban was introduced in 2007.

Perhaps it’s time to try something else?

Why not support a Welsh Industry

Wales is the home of The Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, and several strong Welsh companies which together employ hundreds of people.

We alone manufacture eliquid in Wales, employ over 30 people (all but one in Wales, all on a Living Wage or more), have nine shops, export all over Europe and have resellers as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

There’s an alternative to attacking Welsh industry…

A Possible Solution: Work WITH us instead of AGAINST us?

The Welsh based Electronic Cigarette Industry Association (ECITA) has designed a framework of regulation for members – a framework that has been described by Trading Standards as:

“…a Code any industry would be proud to have.”

As previously mentioned, regulations include mandatory testing of eliquid as well as a ban on selling ecigarettes to children.

Rather than attacking the ecigarette industry, why not work with it to design sensible regulations to ensure Welsh customers get the best possible eliquid, and help support Welsh industry, jobs and exports?

 Also check out what other bloggers think:

Dick Puddlecote: Welsh Wibble
Steve Vape: Smoking Kills, So Let’s Keep It That Way (page since removed)

12 thoughts on “A Call to the Welsh Government: Work With Us, Not Against Us, On Ecigs”

  1. Sounds like a few AM’s been got at here as their argument is just so vague and not backed with anything of substance to make such a change.

    Are the Welsh government then associating nicotine as a smoking thing? Does this mean the Welsh government is also going to ban carrots and most green vegetables because they contain nicotine?

    And again the claim of so many people die of smoking related diseases, can we then assume the Welsh government are in possession of substantiated research that proves these diseases are from cigarettes and that despite the best scientists hammer and tong at it for decades STILL cannot prove that causal link between smoking and death.

    If they cannot prove a cigarette will kill you then how can they prove an e-cig is harmful? I would seriously look into the people proposing these changes and dig a little deeper to see if they have been given anything from big pharma or big tobacco recently “as an incentive” and for the law changes, unless this has been classed as an opt out issue with the EU then Wales HAS to follow the UK and EU directed laws on this matter.

  2. “…unless this has been classed as an opt out issue with the EU then Wales HAS to follow the UK and EU directed laws on this matter.”

    Don’t forget that Wales introduced a smoking ban on cigarettes before England did.

    I believe that epidemiology is the basis for the connection between smoking and early deaths. Richard Doll, who carried out the British Doctors study which followed thousands of smokers over 50 years, was convinced enough to stop smoking!

    In fact, it’s also interesting that in the early 20th century, according to Snowden’s book Velvet Glove Iron Fist, one doctor was dragged into an operating room to see a case of lung cancer because it was so rare at the time – this was just a few years after the invention of the massed rolled cigarettes.

  3. James,

    I wrote a long letter (9 pages long) to the First Minister which was sent yesterday in an attempt to outline the case for ecigarettes and the misinformation that is coming out from both Public Health Wales and the Health Minister. I used some of the quotes from Health and Science experts as shown here and also a few others I could find to help back my argument up. You are more than welcome to see/use that letter if you wish. I doubt I will get an answer, but it made me feel better to ‘vent my spleen’ !!

  4. Hi Simon

    I wrote to the ministers, and cc’ed the local newspapers – had an email from the South Wales Evening Post almost immediately asking for more information on ecigs.


    1. Hi James,

      As the WA has broken up for its Christmas Recess, I suspect that any reply will be slow to come back. However, I am happy to share any response I get back from the WA with you. I presume you will share any response you get through this website.

      I guess the difference between what I wrote and what you wrote is the fact that I have written from the perspective of an ecig user. I also wrote through snail-mail as I prefer official documents like this to be in black and white rather than an email (which I assume from what you said is what you sent).

      Let’s just wait and see, especially as there seems to have been an unsatisfactory compromise at the Trilogue in EU

  5. They do have a commitment to answer with 17 days. The question is, I guess, is whether the minister actually reads it or whether it gets logged and filed away by an aide. I’d advise other people to cc newspapers too.

    I sent an email as on the contact page for the ministers (which readers can find here: ). However, I think the best solution would be to send both post and email.

    “Let’s just wait and see, especially as there seems to have been an unsatisfactory compromise at the Trilogue in EU”

    Don’t give up hope – our best hope is the sheer number of people (voters!) who use ecigs – and the challenge for activists is to mobilise those people to protest.

    1. “Don’t give up hope – our best hope is the sheer number of people (voters!) who use ecigs – and the challenge for activists is to mobilise those people to protest”

      That is a point I picked up on from what the Health Minister said (yes, I did watch the whole feed). His estimate was that there were 80,000 Welsh Vapers. I ventured to them that is a conservative estimate considering how many are switching daily.

      I made a specific point about the fact that vapers are voters too, and also about the fact that many vapers have stated that they will change their vote to protect ecigs

  6. Hi James,

    Don’t know if I am allowed to put URL’s in here. But I was wondering whether you have seen the following:

    That’s a transcript of what Viscount Ridley said in the House Of Lords debate on ecigarettes this morning. We do have someone in Westminster who actually does his research and understands the ecigarette after all !!

  7. Now that is someone who is portraying the best sides of each argument, he allows for regulation which I agree in for the quality of nicotine and flavourings and perhaps in the electrical side of the industry as there are terrible batteries out there which could cause injury and to be honest no one is going to complain if the government wants a piece of the action either as currently its untaxed for foreign imports and taxed at VAT for UK sales.

    What we don’t want to see is overheavy regulation, overheavy taxation and the creation of a black market where people will turn to for cheap and potentially dangerous products driven there by government greed or interference.

    One can hope that a sensible line will be drawn but when you read some of the comments out there by rabid anti-nicotinists I think we could call them, I don’t intend to hold my breath 🙁

  8. Quite. I am actually tried of correcting misinformation. Just the other day an EU representative was saying ecigarettes direct nicotine straight to the lungs (in fact with ecigarettes nicotine tends to be absorbed in the airways), they are more addictive than regular cigarettes (studies and evidence suggest the opposite) and that they delivery more nicotine than cigarettes (again, the opposite is true, in fact Dr Etter has stated the biggest problem with ecigs is that they don’t delivery nicotine fast enough.)

    How can we hope to have a fair debate about ecigs when the other side are basing their assumptions on lies?

  9. “How can we hope to have a fair debate about ecigs when the other side are basing their assumptions on lies?”

    Its not that long ago that this sort of behaviour was the abnormality rather than the norm but their duty isn’t to us the public but their corporate friends who line their pockets to ensure what they want said is done.

    Earlier this year, the public stopped this government from going to war in Syria and three days ago, the UN has pretty much vindicated our position to rightfully stop them but where is it in the news?

    Back on topic, I am cursing and swearing right now at a Genesis type atomiser which with two “straws” and two .8ohm coils is somewhat a big blast of nicotine, its incredibly fiddly mind but the passing cloud of steam has been worth it hehe

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