What’s up with the Welsh and their e-cigs?

Devolved government is a good thing, right?


Scottish kids don’t pay University fees, the Welsh have everything in their own language, and both nations have a large say about what goes on in their own back yard.


But when it comes to maters of health – can we have a Union that isn’t joined up?


Because when it comes to vaping, the Welsh are going it alone.


The Welsh Health Department believe that they know better than Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, ASH and many other prominent scientists when it comes to e-cigarettes.

They are also doing the complete opposite of the English and Scottish Governments.


The Welsh want to ban vaping in public places.


The Welsh Health Department are firmly standing with the WHO on this one, so we won’t mention too loudly the criticism the WHO received when they issued their paper on e-cigarettes and threw everybody out of COP 6 when they began discussing e-cigs.


But you can read it here:


Suffice to say the critics of the WHO’s stand on e-cigarettes ended with this conclusion: The language of the report, the selective use and misrepresentation of evidence is problematic in a major policy-relevant document. Policymakers and the public require scientists to present evidence objectively, and when they offer unsubstantiated opinions, scientists should make it clear that this is what they are doing.


That’s right, the entire proposed ban is based on unsubstantiated opinions.


In their non – wisdom, the Welsh have decided to pursue a policy of banning vaping in public places and enclosed public places. You won’t be able to vape in pubs, and probably not even in a vape shop… as can be seen from this snippet from the white paper. (apologies for the poor quality)


White Paper







Yes, you read that right too – no impact assessment, as no data. Probably because no one could be bothered to do it?


There is no evidence that vapour is harmful to bystanders – the very reason why smoking was banned – there is no evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking – (a Welsh Health Department favourite), in fact the evidence shows this clearly not to be the case, plus, there is no evidence that vaping ‘re normalises’ smoking – another Welsh favourite.


In fact there is roughly 97% compliance rate with the smoking ban.


The arguments the Welsh are using have all been torn apart and discredited, but it seems Mr Drakeford, the Welsh Health Minister must know something that all the experts don’t.


However, he’s not playing ball and he’s not telling us.


What has been reassuring in all this, (look for the silver lining people..) is that there is a sea change within the media – (at least on this issue) – plenty of the press came out against the vaping ban – with one newspaper using the excellent title, ‘ bored wales in militant pro-cancer e-cigarette stance’ . The Welsh vaping ban will mean more people smoking, which as we have all been told- leads to cancer.


The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been very vocal in their opposition to the vaping ban – they have a petition that you could sign ( link at the end) – but if you are Welsh, and you don’t want your vaping freedom eroded, then I strongly suggest that you write to your AM – or better still go and visit them.


DON’T leave it up to someone else – because someone else may be just as non-arsed as you are – and then before you know – BOOM! No more vaping in public or public places…. All because you didn’t fight for what was right.


What do they say – you get the government and rules you deserve?


So come on Wales – don’t let them get away with it!










2.6 million and growing! E-cig use continues to rise in the UK

Yup, it’s all over my news feed, so it must be true!! growing


Action on Smoking and Health (ASH to you and me) have release new stats for vaping, and they are positive, AND the media is picking up on it too!


I know – shocking eh?


Even the Mirror – that bastion of e-cig hatefulness ended their piece on a positive note – ““The proven harm of tobacco is currently getting less coverage than the much smaller and far less certain harm from electronic cigarettes. We owe it to smokers to provide them with accurate information.”


I think we can all do a wee happy jig for that one.


I am not so naïve to believe that suddenly the media are going to fall in love with e-cigs and all the bashing will go away –


But lets look at what ASH have found – and is it yet again another case of the statisticians and scientists catching up with the vapers??


  • There are now 2.6 million vapers in the UK – both full and part time (by part time I mean dual use….)
  • 95% of smokers and 93% of non smokers have now heard about e-cigs
  • Ex smokers are the main group of users and new users
  • Main use for e-cigs is to switch from tobacco entirely
  • Most vapers are using tanks and refillables, only 5% use ciga-likes, though most did start vaping using these devices.
  • Flavours – most dual users prefer the tobacco flavours, it is the full time vapers that are using the variety of flavours.
  • Vaping is NOT a gateway to smoking – never smokers using e-cigs remains negligible.


Interestingly this year ASH has looked at the perceptions of harm, and what they found is curious – there is a decrease in the group that didn’t know that e-cigs are more or less harmful than tobacco, but an increase in the number – a staggering increase – from 6% to 20% that believe e-cigs are as harmful as tobacco cigarettes.


Well done to the Main Stream Media (MMS) for that one guys!


Without donning tin foil hats etc., this just shows the power of the media to influence our thought processes and our lives. Theory (wisdom?) has it that the media need us to feel anxious and scared – as that apparently keeps us coming back for more news, we buy more papers – surf more sites – hence the news always being about death and destruction. It plays into the part of the brain that is continually alert for danger – so we take heed.


This is why good news is barely reported.


Having you feeling relaxed about your choice of nicotine delivery device is not in the MMS interest.


Hence the jumping for glee when they do pick up solid good news!



ASH have been following and monitoring e-cigs since 2010, and they have gradually increased the scope of their studies to include children – aged 11-18, they now ask questions about flavours, devices, amount of use – (no surprises when full time vapers score higher than part time) but also perception.


And it is this perception question that is a stroke of almost genius, as it shows quite clearly the harm that misinformation can do.


ASH at the start of the e-cig revolution were clearly seen as the ‘enemy’, and to be fair, their preference for regulation of e-cigs is for them to be all licenced as medicinal. However, Deborah Arnott, their Chief, has been stoical in the face of much e-cig hostility and has stuck to the science and is being incredibly fair in what she says. The science is stating e-cigs are less harmful – the numbers are showing that 2.6 million smokers and ex smokers in the UK are finding them of benefit – they are not a gateway to smoking, so thank you to ASH for publishing these figures.






E-cigs appear to be less addictive than conventional cigarettes

If you are a seasoned vaper, you are probably already aware of this, if not, then let me tell you how much good news this is, because it is yet another example of the science catching up with vapers.


And information that e-cigs are less addictive has now been shown in several studies….



One study came to the media’s attention during a recent senate committee hearing. It was the Rhode Island Senate Committee on Health and Human Services that held a hearing on the 16th April 2015, regarding e-cigarette labelling and if e-cigs should be added to the existing public smoking ban. It was at that hearing that an e-cig vendor named Dino Baccari told the Committee that e-cigs are not as addictive as tobacco cigarettes and he had the proof.


The proof was a study done last year that was published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research Journal.

Taking 3’600 e-cig users, they asked them to fill out an online questionnaire that had over 100 questions in it, and they were designed to assess the withdrawal, craving and frequency of e-cigs compared to tobacco cigarettes.


Here are some of the findings:


  • While 86 percent reported “strong,” “very strong” or “extremely strong” urges to smoke a cigarette, the rate was just 12 percent with e-cigarettes.


  • While 41 percent said their cravings were so strong they had woken up at night to smoke cigarettes, only 7 percent of e-cigarette users said they had done that.



  • While 92 percent said they were more irritable when they were unable to smoke their cigarettes, only 26 percent reported that type of irritability when they can’t use their e-cigarette.


  • Over 90 percent reported that they had experienced strong urges to smoke and withdrawal symptoms when a smoker, but only 25 to 35 percent reported experiencing these symptoms of dependence as an e-cig user.





This research, like all research is not without errors, bias and people that will say it should have been done differently – this is why respected journals have peer review, where other scientists look at the research and critique it.

One possible  issue with this research could be that people don’t always remember their cravings etc, but I think the numbers speak for themselves, and indeed the American Lung Association have stated that this study is legitimate, through and balanced.


A separate study, published in February 2015 in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol dependence, studied dual use – when vapers vape and smoke, compared to smokers that don’t vape, and they came to similar conclusions after looking at all 2498 smokers, e-cig users and NRT users that were involved in the study.


The Authors, Dr. Jean-Francois Etter of the Institute of Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; and Dr. Thomas Eissenberg of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products, Dept. of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. Stated:  “Some e-cigarette users were dependent on nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, but these products were less addictive than tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes may be as or less addictive than nicotine gums, which themselves are not very addictive.”


This re-enforcement of what many us know will add to the growing body of evidence that e-cigarettes are less harmful, and are less addictive





E-cigs should be available to everyone, and here’s one reason why.

Only one political party has mentioned e-cigs in their manifesto, and it just happens to be the same party that is pushing for mental health to be made a priority.


Is there a correlation?


Here at TECC we are not pushing for this party – we are completely neutral in this election – but it is interesting and heart warming to see that one e-cig advocate is putting mental health and e-cigarettes together, by helping to create a pilot scheme where those in mental health units are allowed to vape in place of smoking.Mental-health-problems-007


People with mental health problems tend to smoke, and they tend smoke a lot. They smoke as it helps them deal with the stress of their situation, and when things get bad, smoking calms them. This is well know within the health care systems, and new non smoking regulations are causing people that are already emotionally stressed to become further stressed and unbalanced. This is grossly unfair when all they want to do is partake in a perfectly legal habit.


Recent legislation has banned smoking within mental health units, and in some cases, patients are not allowed to smoke on hospital grounds either. With the current staffing crisis in the NHS there is not always a person able to be with the patient off grounds (should they be allowed to go there).


Understandably this is causing more stress to both patients and staff. Staff are now having to deal with more agitated patients.


One could even argue that this goes against human rights, but we will leave that to the lawyers. As one commentator on Clive Bates’ blog beautifully summed it up, “ To take away, by force, a perfectly legal pastime from any patient is inhumane and stressful, but for a patient with mental health issues, a disaster”.


Louise Ross the Smoking Cessation Service Manager for Leicester has written for Clive Bates about how she is helping to set up this pioneering new scheme for one mental health unit.


Louise has managed to garner the support of charge nurses, psychiatrists, the hospital fire service guys and the Matron. Some were more open than others, but ultimately she has managed to convince everyone that this is worth a try.


Writing about one of the psychiatrists involved she states: “He was able to use his own experiences of patients in crisis, seeing that the availability of a vaporizer could have a huge benefit for someone who needed nicotine during a difficult time, helping the person be able to stay calm and in control”


And isn’t this what Public Health should be about? About caring for those that need it most?


This is a very new venture, Louise herself is unsure if this is a policy or a scheme, but as she concludes, “ This is to give people with poor mental health the same opportunities as those in the general population – a chance to stop using smoked tobacco (which harms health and can take up almost all the disposable income of people with mental health problems). We know there are other Trusts wanting to know how it goes, and I’m proud that we can show the way.”


We here at TECC wish Louise all the best for this new venture, and hope that the scheme will be successful, that patients will benefit – and that this caring approach to tobacco harm reduction and patient care will be rolled out further.




Electronic Cigarettes and Tax.


Let’s start with a few stats. HMRC Tax


There are 2.1 million vapers in the UK, 10 million smokers and

114’000 deaths each year that are attributed to tobacco related illness.


Why put vaper stats in with smoking stats like that?


Because that’s how the taxman sees you.


As a statistic.


The key benefit of vaping comes from how many people switch from smoking to vaping. E-cigs are of magnitude less harmful than burning tobacco, and we all know someone that has benefited from making the switch.


But the taxman cometh, and he’s coming from the EU and the UK. Seems they had a wee tea party back in February of this year and all joined together in a bid to find new taxes and streams of revenue.


E-cigs were the product of choice. In Italy he’s already struck – they now have a €0.37 per ml tax applied to their e-liquids, increasing a 10ml bottle of e-liquid by €3.70, and in Portugal the taxman takes even more – with a €0.60 per ml tax.


Part of their tea party was to see if they can ‘harmonise’ the tax, i.e. so we all pay the same. €0.60 is about 43p. If we have to tax at the same rate as Portugal, up goes your e-liquid by a cool £4.30 per 10 ml bottle.


But why tax a product that is so much less harmful?


Back to the 10 million smokers…

The UK squeezed out of those 10 million and the tobacco industry a cool £12.3 billion of tobacco tax in 2013.


I know; the mind boggles.


Now, at the moment, even though the smoking rates are gradually falling, the tax revenue is not. (It has managed to increase year in year out). But there will come a time when it will start to fall, and so the government is looking at ways to get more. Governments are insatiable beasts. They believe it is fair game to tax e-cigarettes as they contain nicotine.


NRT contains nicotine, but because it has a medicinal licence, it’s only subject to 5% tax.

That’s not enough.


Plus, now that e-cigs have joined the party, sales in NRT are tanking.


So which part of the e-cig will they tax? All of it? Just the e-liquid?


The reason we are told that cigarettes are taxed is because they are really bad for us. Is it then fair to tax a product that isn’t? Smokers allegedly place a huge burden on the NHS, yet when you examine the figures – they pay for it – and more!


The introduction of the e-liquid tax in Italy and Portugal has had the effect of people staying smokers.


And there is a cynical part of me that believes this is actually point.



From where we are sitting, there are no good reasons for taxing e-cigarettes other than with the consumer tax they have now. They are not a tobacco product and if all this talk about genuinely wanting people to stop smoking is true – why tax the hell out of a product that is helping people to do precisely that?






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