Vaping and the NHS
Posted on 7 February 2017 by Matt Brown.
Ah, the good old NHS. One of the great British institutions, it's been at the heart of the UK since its inception in 1948. For over 60 years its been there for us, from the cradle to the grave.
We can say a lot of wonderful things about the NHS - almost everyone across the UK will have some experience of the amazing care they provide on a daily basis, despite living under eternal budget restrictions.
And it has been gratifying to see the health service gradually coming round to the value of e-cigarettes in helping to address the huge number of patients they treat each year for terminal smoking-related illnesses. While they may have been hesitant initially (and there's certainly some degree of that still around today), the NHS has made some positive noises which point towards a rosier future.
Indications are there that the NHS will at some point soon begin to prescribe e-cigs to patients seeking a way out of smoking, and there already a number of NHS quit services actively promoting their effectiveness.
And yes, there are concerns that the kinds of devices likely to gain medical licensing (and hence be prescribed) are going to be simple products, which may not offer enough of a range of flavour, nic or power options to suit everyone. But that doesn't mean that they are bad thing. Anything which gives smokers a route away from smoking should be encouraged.
But despite these positive overtures, and despite Public Health England stating that e-cigs are at least 95% safer than continuing to smoke, and despite the Royal College of Physicians throwing their backing behind vaping, we face a difficult time in the industry.
Who do you trust?
Distrust of vaping among the general public is on the rise, with numbers of those who believe it to be more harmful than smoking doubling between 2014 and 2015. With the public back of e-cigs from leading health bodies, why should this be?
Partly, it's political. The introduction of the TPD across the EU beginning in May 2016 will have had an effect. This is to be expected - to the uninformed, why should the Government take steps to regulate something if it was wasn't warranted?
New rules covering health warnings on product packaging are also going to inevitably result in a further increase in distrust, as members of the public conflate e-cigs with tobacco.
But the number one cause of misconceptions is the media. Confused, misleading and downright deceitful reporting has been carried out among the press for years, and this sustained negative coverage has damaged our reputation.
With declining circulations across the board, it should come as no surprise that newspapers are reaching for more and more dramatic, clickbait titles to hold on to their remaining readerships. The problem, for them, is that it isn't working.
Vapers in the UK alone now number more than 2.8 million, and all the evidence points towards that number continuing to increase. Where it was a novelty to see someone using an e-cig on the street even 5 years ago, today it is commonplace.
With the first long term studies beginning to emerge, further backing up the fact that e-cig represent a 'far safer' alternative, the narrative must begin to change.
The media has a responsibility to report the facts, and institutional bias is not an excuse anymore. Thousands die everyday in the UK from smoking related illnesses, and a crusade against vaping in order to sell more copies will inevitably do nothing to prevent that. Newspapers and broadcasters need to face the reality that every false headline they run may lead to an avoidable early death.
We implore the media to think about what they're reporting, look at the NHS and other public health bodies, and begin producing more balanced and responsible copy.