Doctor Christian is no VApril fool
Friday, March 30, 2018 at 17:09
Simon Clark

VApril, the new pro-vaping campaign, was launched yesterday.

It's early days but the signs are it won't be the four-week festival of anti-smoking rhetoric some may have feared.

Indeed, what I like about the VApril website is that it focuses on the positive (the potential health benefits of vaping) instead of the negative (the often hysterical arguments against smoking).

Yesterday I watched interviews with Dr Christian Jessen and Mark Pawsey MP, chairman of All Party Parliamentary Group for E-Cigarettes, and I have to say it was a far cry from the stern, humourless propaganda one associates with tobacco control campaigns.

At one point, speaking on the Daily Politics in the aftermath of a long, Brexit-driven interview with Nigel Farage, Dr Christian (as everyone seems to call him) good-naturedly invited the former Ukip leader to take up the ‘VApril challenge’.

Presenter of the BAFTA award winning Embarrassing Bodies, Dr Christian is VApril's poster boy. Getting him on board is a major coup for a campaign run by the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) whose members include BAT, JTI, PMI and Fontem Ventures (owned by Imperial Brands).

Compare Dr Christian with the comedians and 'celebrities' that have been hired – at the public's expense – to promote anti-smoking events like Stoptober.

Why anyone would care what Al Murray, Bill Bailey, Rhod Gilbert or Shappi Khorsandi have to say about smoking I can't imagine. What a waste of money (£195,000, reportedly).

Even worse was the year they enlisted ex-footballer Chris Kamara, former Atomic Kitten Natasha Hamilton and serial quitter Phil Tufnell.

Most important, I've seen Dr Christian tweet about vaping many times and he strikes me as someone who is genuinely interested in the issue.

At the same time he doesn’t seem judgemental about smoking. He believes there are healthier habits and smokers would benefit from quitting, but I’ve never seen him deliver an unneccesarily derogatory comment about smoking, or smokers.

He's also comfortable with the fact that the VApril campaign is organised by a body whose members include the world's leading tobacco companies. As he himself tweeted:

And what a good thing that the tobacco industry is supporting harm reduction. Given that the nicotine in pretty much any smoking cessation product comes from tobacco plants this is hardly a surprise either, is it?

— Dr Christian Jessen (@DoctorChristian) March 29, 2018

In short, an inspired choice by the UKVIA (or the Westminster-based PR company hired to work on the campaign).

It's worth noting too that VApril is entirely self-funding with not a penny of public money asked for or spent on the campaign.

In contrast, Stoptober has cost the taxpayer millions of pounds since it was launched by Public Health England in 2012.

As we know, because I've written about it several times, including here and here, the fall in the number of smokers registering to take part in the Stoptober 'challenge' has been so dramatic that PHE no longer records the figure, preferring to spend public money on a whim and a prayer with little or no evidence that the taxpayer is getting value for money.

Like vaping, VApril is a harm reduction initiative driven not by government, the public sector or taxpayer-funded lobbyists, but by business and the free market.

That probably explains why the tobacco control industry is ignoring the new campaign but it doesn't explain why public health minister Steve Brine has also adopted a monk-like vow of silence. I mean, how pathetic is that?

Anyway, that's a subject for another post. (We are monitoring their tweets and public comments and will report back.)

In the meantime, if the focus of the VApril campaign is genuinely on choice and education, then I'm happy to support it. I'll keep you posted.

A pleasure to meet @DoctorChristian today during the launch of the @Vaping_Industry #Vapril campaign. Having a high profile, forward thinking medical professional supporting this campaign is fantastic. #VaprilChallenge

— Robert Sidebottom (@sidbob1504) March 29, 2018

It all makes sense now. @DoctorChristian chose his outfit to match the campaign literature. A true pro!

— Forest (@Forest_Smoking) March 29, 2018

Detail is EVERYTHING! 🤗

— Dr Christian Jessen (@DoctorChristian) March 29, 2018
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