Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) chief executive Deborah Arnott has defended Public Health England (PHE) for promoting vaping as a smoking-cessation initiative.
Ms Arnott made the comments during a BBC Radio 4 debate with Martin McKee, professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Prof McKee said that PHE has ‘chosen to ignore the risks’ of e-cigarettes and teen nicotine addition despite their being ‘very limited evidence that they’re effective in helping people to quit [and] the uncertainty about the long-term health effects.’
Ms Arnott, whose charity supports e-cigarettes for smoking-cessation, rebuffed the claims.
Ms Arnott said:
“I can’t comment about the US but in the UK we have some of the strictest tobacco regulations in the world and they’re working to both reduce the number of smokers and to allow e-cigarettes to work as they should be working, to help adult smokers quit and not to addict a new generation of young people.”
“We’re not seeing significant uptake (of vaping among teens). There is a sort of alarmist approach. In America, they talk of an ‘epidemic’ of e-cigarette use among young people. Public Health England has been much more sensible. It actually promotes vaping only for adults.”
Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), was among the first to criticise Prof McKee earlier this week for ignoring the growing body of evidence supporting vaping as a less-harmful alternative to smoking:
Two things are guaranteed column inches in the the UK press for no good reason: Action on Sugar finding sugar in food and Martin McKee making evidence-free claims about vaping.
— Christopher Snowdon (@cjsnowdon) April 23, 2019
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, has urged sceptics such as Prof McKee to consider the current evidence from a harm-reduction standpoint.
Prof Newton said:
“There is widespread academic and clinical consensus that while not without risk, vaping is far less harmful than smoking.
“This view is held by many across the world, including the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences in the US.
“There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping.”