ASH Daily News for 23 September 2019


  • Eight vaping related deaths in the US has prompted a backlash, but could the panic do more harm than good?
  • BBC Radio 4: What are the risks of vaping?
  • Council to cut back stop-smoking service due to funding cuts


Eight vaping related deaths in the US has prompted a backlash, but could the panic do more harm than good?

In recent weeks there have been numerous news stories linking vaping to eight deaths in the United States and hundreds of cases of respiratory illness.

So, how worried should we be? “Very few things in life are entirely safe, but vaping is less risky than smoking,” says Dr Linda Bauld, deputy director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, and a researcher in addiction at the University of Edinburgh. Bauld has written reports for Public Health England (PHE) and the Royal College of Physicians explaining that vaping is “orders of magnitude” less harmful than smoking. “It’s safer and less harmful because there’s no combustion, no burning,” she says. “What causes the vast majority of the harm from smoking is the tar that’s produced when the cigarette is burned – that has over 4,000 chemicals in it.”

The American issue is something else entirely, Bauld says: the eight people who have died, the average age of whom is around 19, have all been connected to vaping cannabis or tetraydrocannabinol (THC), which is illegal to sell at concentrations above 0.2% in the UK, and in most states in the USA.

Illegal THC cannabis products are completely unregulated and black-market manufacturers in the US are reported to have begun using a thickening agent in the oils last year to help them work with e-cigarettes. “We think that’s caused the lipoid pneumonia, respiratory problems and deaths,” says Bauld.

The distinction between illegal and legal vaping has been lost in translation – the CDC issued a blanket warning against all e-cigarettes in the US, earlier this month. “When you’ve got reputable government agencies giving that advice, then, of course, there’s going to be confusion and people are going to assume the risk of death or serious respiratory illness can arise from any product,” says Bauld.

UK rules, instigated by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which regulates e-cigarettes, mean vitamins can’t be added to e-liquids here. Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is clear: “If serious respiratory problems were linked to vaping here, our medicines regulator and health protection authorities would take the necessary action and warn vapers.”

Source: The Telegraph, 21 September 2019

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BBC Radio 4: What are the risks of vaping?

The programme examines the case for and against e-cigarettes in the light of the recent deaths in America which have been linked to their use. And the moves to ban them in the US and other countries like India set against the views by experts that vaping has a useful role to play in helping people to give up smoking.

The presenter puts himself in the position of the Secretary of State for Health, having to decide what to do about e-cigarettes concluding that “if you set the possible risks of vaping against the certain health benefits of helping people quit smoking then in the British context allowing vaping to continue seems to me the best policy for the time being.”

Tom Novotny, Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, San Diego State University
Hannah Kuchler, US Pharma and Biotech Correspondent, The Financial Times
Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, the University of Edinburgh
Lion Shahab, Associate Professor in Health Psychology, University College London.

Source: BBC Radio 4, 19 September 2019

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Council to cut back stop-smoking service due to funding cuts

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is set to cut the funding for its stop smoking service by £99,000, as part of £5.5 million of emergency budget cuts. Council chiefs say the current low take-up of the authority’s smoking cessation services and the rising popularity of vaping, means the funding cut will not have an impact on service users.

Stoke-on-Trent still has one of the highest rates of smoking ill-health in the country, with more people in the city dying of smoking-related conditions than anywhere else in the West Midlands.

Committee member Mohammed Pervez raised concerns about funding for the service being cut: “You say smoking cessation is going to be cut because the demand isn’t there. But surely the demand is there, it’s just that it isn’t getting to the people who need it. If more people are smoking then in later life they’re going to be suffering from respiratory conditions, and so that will have an impact on other parts of the health system.”

Source: Stoke-on-Trent Live, 23 September 2019

See also:
Action on Smoking and Health & Cancer Research UK. (2019) A Changing Landscape: Stop smoking services and tobacco control in England.

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