July 3rd, 2015

Hong Kong health department moves decisively to protect the cigarette trade

World’s most dynamic city should choose: innovation or prohibition?

Another day another prohibitionist move against e-cigarettes – this time in Hong Kong. I would like someone, just one person somewhere in the world (but if possible someone at WHO), to explain why it is good policy to ban a product that nobody disputes is many times lower risk than cigarettes while cigarettes remain freely available. How can it be ethical to say to a smoker: “you know those cigarettes? They’re gonna kill you” and then say “sorry we’re going to ban these alternatives that will cause you a fraction the harm, if any“.  Really?  So it is with heavy hearts, Gerry Stimson and I write to the Hong Kong Legislative Council Panel on Health Services to argue against the Department of Health’s irresponsible proposal to ban sale of e-cigarettes.  There’s a hearing coming up on 6 July 2015.  Here’s the relevant documents: >> read the full post

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July 2nd, 2015

The letter England’s Minister for Public Health should now write

NottheDH

The letter the minister should write, not one she did….

If I was England’s Minister for Public Health, this is the letter I would write today, just as the proposed UK implementation of the EU Tobacco Product Directive is announced for consultation.  The EU directive may be an anti-scientific, unprincipled and unlawful mess, but there is still plenty that can be done in the UK or England.  One thing would be to have all the agencies involved in delivering tobacco harm reduction / e-cigarette policy aligned and maximising the opportunity.  This is the letter that would do that: >> read the full post

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July 2nd, 2015

Minister for Public Health or Chief Medical Officer: who is right about e-cigarettes?

ministervCMO

Who is right about e-cigarettes?

It is not often that Ministers and senior officials take such different public positions on important policy matters, but on tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes, English health ministers and Chief Medical Officer for England take a quite different view. The CMO is given a measure of independence and can speak out as they please, but this is on the tacit understanding that the CMO provides dispassionate, scientifically reasoned advice in areas in which they are qualified to advise – to speak truth to power if you like.  But what if the CMO isn’t providing scientifically grounded advice? Let’s examine their respective positions… >> read the full post

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June 22nd, 2015

Regulator gives irresponsible doctors green light to say false and harmful things to the public

trust-me-im-a-doctor

But who holds you to account for what you say?

What stops a doctor going on to the radio, appearing as a trusted voice of the medical profession and representative of the BMA, but making false and misleading statements about an important public health issue? What if the factual errors and misleading advice cause people to smoke who would otherwise have quit? We know that in Britain doctors are held to account by the General Medical Council and sometimes the courts for professional negligence in their surgeries and hospitals, but who holds them to account for negligent statements to the public?

No-one it seems.  In Britain, the following case shows that doctors can say just about anything, no matter how wrong, irresponsible and harmful, and escape any professional accountability. The GMC simply washes its hands and lets them off.

(Note: just looking for the complaint? It’s here) >> read the full post

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June 18th, 2015

Singapore law protects the most dangerous nicotine products, bans the safest – why?

Singapore-map

Bad for health – banning much safer alternatives to smoking

Outside the field of tobacco control (and illicit drugs), are there any precedents for banning products that are at least 20 times safer than the dominant product in the market while leaving that high risk product widely available? I cannot think of one, or why a nation would wish to have such a ban. Yet this is what they want to do in Singapore for tobacco: pretty well all low risk nicotine products will be banned, while cigarettes will be protected from competition. Why do this? What about the unintended consequences?

It’s time to start challenging the instinctive belief that bans are a good policy, and to start putting science, ethics and public health first.  So Professor Gerry Stimson and I have written an open letter to the Government of Singapore urging them to pause and reconsider – and to show leadership by being better than the European Union and United States FDA at regulating these products.  >> read the full post

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