First off, if it’s not too late, a happy new year to all and for those who have seen the new Star Wars movie, let the Resistance to public misinformation about tobacco harm reduction intensify with the growing Force of evidence. (OK that’s enough). And to see in the new year with a bang, is a very welcome development.
It’s very hard not to be rather smug about the overall UK response to tobacco harm reduction. It would be great to be able to report on the publication of ground-breaking reports from equivalent overseas bodies to Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians or supportive statements from other globally respected medical journals like the British Medical Journal. But it is what it is. So no humble apologies for highlighting a forthcoming pro-vaping campaign by none other than Cancer Research UK, one of the world’s leading independent cancer charities.
This is an e-cigarette campaign which will run as a pilot across a large area of the north west of England (Greater Manchester) from 15th January until 18th February 2018. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the relative safety of e-cigarettes compared to smoking, with the key message that the research shows that vaping is far less harmful than smoking. It is vital to get this message across as increasing numbers of UK adults have been seduced by the ‘fake news’ that e-cigarettes are just as harmful as cigarettes.
The campaign is aimed at smokers aged 25–55, with a focus on those who want to stop and haven’t tried an e-cigarette before. The advertising will target lower socio-economic groups, due to higher smoking prevalence and lower e-cigarette use compared to higher socio-economic groups and because Greater Manchester does experience high level of derivation. There is also a commitment within the Greater Manchester Tobacco Control Plan ‘Making Smoking History’ to develop innovative e-cigarette friendly policies, services and offers, making this an ideal place to pilot the campaign which could be rolled out nationally depending on the results of the evaluation.
The elements of the outdoor advertising campaign include adverts on buses, billboards, bus stops, phone kiosks and washroom posters with regional media and Facebook coverage. Importantly, this means most people will be exposed to the campaign, not just those in the target group.
The impact of advertising on awareness, knowledge, attitudes and reported behaviour will be measured with pre- and post-campaign surveys. The surveys will be supported with qualitative research (interviews) which will take place both during and after the campaign.
And here is a New Year campaign teaser from Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at Stirling University in Scotland:
The evidence just keeps on giving from the world of cancer research. The small study from the Cancer Center at the University of South Carolina found that smokers who are willing to use e-cigarettes tend to smoke less and have increased quit attempts. “Results showed that when smokers were given e-cigarettes without any accompanying instructions or requirements for use, uptake was strong, and many participants went on to purchase their own e-cigarettes. This suggests that e-cigarettes might give smokers a suitable alternative to combustible cigarettes. Those who used e-cigarettes smoked less and were more likely to quit smoking, as compared to those in the control group”
Again from the cancer research community, is an innovative way of regarding the long-term benefit of tobacco harm reduction and safer nicotine products – not simply quoting best case, but also calculating ‘worst case’. David Levy, from the Department of Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington and colleagues from across the US and Australia have mapped best and worst-case scenarios for the reduction in mortality through a switch to SNP.
They calculated that “replacement of cigarette by e-cigarette use over a 10-year period yields 6.6 million fewer premature deaths with 86.7 million fewer life years lost in the Optimistic Scenario. Under the Pessimistic Scenario, 1.6 million premature deaths are averted with 20.8 million fewer life years lost. The largest gains are among younger cohorts, with a 0.5 gain in average life expectancy projected for the age 15 years cohort in 2016”. And they conclude that, “The tobacco control community has been divided regarding the role of e-cigarettes in tobacco control. Our projections show that a strategy of replacing cigarette smoking with vaping would yield substantial life year gains, even under pessimistic assumptions regarding cessation, initiation and relative harm”
Manchester-based Michael Linnell, a UK drug harm reduction pioneer, cartoonist and vaper has just released this animation on YouTube about safer vaping:
A study of American youth from two US economists suggest that there is a direct correlation between the pricing of cigarettes and e-cigarettes and decisions on which to use and that overall e-cigarettes are more likely to be an ‘exit ramp’ from smoking for young people than a gateway.