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Friday
Jan112019

Politics and propaganda

A quick recap:

Public Health England (PHE) has released a new film showing the devastating harms from smoking and how these can be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette or using another type of quit aid. The film has been released as part of PHE’s Health Harms campaign, which encourages smokers to make a quit attempt this January by demonstrating the personal and irrefutable harm to health from every single cigarette [my emphasis].

The film features smoking expert Dr Lion Shahab and Dr Rosemary Leonard carrying out an experiment to visually demonstrate the high levels of cancer-causing chemicals and tar inhaled by an average smoker over a month, compared to not smoking or using an e-cigarette. The results of the experiment visually illustrate the stark contrast between the impacts of smoking and vaping. Research estimates that while not risk-free, vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking.

I wrote about the film a couple of weeks ago. I didn't dispute the fact that, on current evidence, vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking, if indeed it's harmful at all. I repeated the point several times.

I did however criticise the nature of the film (see 'The price of appeasing PHE’s anti-smoking propaganda)' which reminded me of another anti-smoking campaign that Forest took to the Advertising Standards Authority.

(The ASA upheld our complaint THREE times before the ASA Council overruled their own executive.)

This week, under the headline 'PHE releases new film to encourage freedom of choice', the New Nicotine Alliance posted a staunch defence of both the film and PHE:

It is true to say that the film is intended to shock by illustrating the difference between what comes out of a cigarette with what is emitted from an e-cigarette. Lurid headlines from irresponsible media outlets who promote irrational fear about vaping are having a real-world effect of scaring smokers away from alternatives and, consequentially, corrupting free choice. They need to be countered robustly. If a consumer is denied true facts about a product, they are not able to make an educated decision.

It is also important to note that there is nothing coercive about this film. It does not order smokers to quit, it merely presents information in a stark and accessible way in order that smokers might see that their misperceptions about e-cigarettes have come from dubious sources.

The film also only seeks to guide viewers, not to direct them. It is correct that the lung is a marvel of evolution and can filter out much of the tar that is sent its way, but PHE has left the smoker to make the decision as to whether to take that risk or not.

The NNA talk about ‘lurid headlines ... corrupting free choice’ but they are quite happy for PHE to use a lurid film to scare smokers so they quit or switch to vaping.

They insist that consumers should be allowed to make an ‘educated decision’ yet endorse a film that goes far beyond education.

'Nothing in the film is inaccurate' they argue. Really? Are you seriously telling me you can fill a bell jar with cotton wool and say it's an accurate representation of a smoker's lungs?

To quote from my earlier post:

Examining the cigarette bell jar at the end of the experiment, Dr Leonard finds ‘the cotton wool in the tobacco bell jar is brown, the inside of the bell jar is brown and the tube leading to the air pump is thick with tar’.

In the video she comments:

"I mean, it's just so revolting. Look at this, that's just inside the jar. Here, a lump of tar. So that's what's going on inside your lungs. There's loads of it and this is only after one month."

She's right, what we see is revolting but does it really indicate the state of a smoker's lungs after one month of heavy smoking?

If a smoker's lungs were in that state after just one month, imagine what they might be like after twelve months, or five or ten years.

In reality the lungs of regular smokers are frequently given to lung transplant patients. How is that possible if this experiment is representative of the state of smokers' lungs?

According to the New Nicotine Alliance:

The NNA exists to promote wide availability of alternative products, rather than coercion. We believe – many of us through personal experience - that forcing smokers to quit with a stick is nowhere near as effective as tempting them with a carrot. Harm reduction is grounded in such a philosophy. Availability of accurate information goes hand in hand with availability of the products; it is no use having a wide range of devices on the market if smokers have been conned into avoiding them.

I agree with that. In my view though PHE's film crosses the line that separates education from propaganda.

There is enough information about the health risks of smoking without resorting to crude visual 'experiments' that bear little reality to real life.

Of course it's maddening that many people, smokers included, are misinformed about the risks of vaping, but two wrongs don't make a right.

The internet is awash with complaints from vaping advocates about the 'ethics of anti-vaping activists exaggerating the risks of safer alternatives to smoking' (to quote Clive Bates) but what about the ethics of those who exaggerate the effects of smoking to 'encourage' smokers to switch to e-cigarettes?

Public Health England are masters of propaganda – on smoking, eating and drinking. How sad that a vaping advocacy group should not only endorse such tactics but credit PHE with encouraging 'freedom of choice'.

Cue hollow laughter ...

See 'PHE releases new film to encourage freedom of choice' (New Nicotine Alliance).

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Reader Comments (5)

The NNA - a new Public Health front group. Honestly, why did you ever think vaping orgs like that stooge were ever on the side of choice?

The only time that lot screech junk science is when it shows Vaping causes popcorn lung. All junk science about smoking is clearly true - their masters in public health told them so.

Can we now accept we will never get help from vaping orgs and stop wasting time trying to get them on the side of freedom of choice when their real aim is to infiltrate and force smokers to vaping? I mean, how many more times will we allow these former self hating smokers to stab us in the back.

Incidentally, like Remainers think leavers were too thick to know what they were voting for, so vapers think smokers are too thick to understand their view that vaping is good for you.

I asked among my smoking friends and it is surprising how many will not switch to vapng because they have found it either blows their lungs out, hurts their chest, or gives them a sore throat for days.

Vapers - stop insulting us. We've tried it. It harms us. We will not be forced to it via coercion. Stop treating us as the same kind of idiot that public health treats us as.

Ecigs do not save lives. No one knows the long term health implications. Moderate smoking or quitting save lives so stop the junk and the propaganda.

Friday, January 11, 2019 at 14:28 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

These people never give up do they. How many more times do they need to be told to mind their own business and leave us alone to enjoy our tobacco.

Friday, January 11, 2019 at 16:07 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

It reminds me of an ant-smoking advert from the eighties where a person was shown scrubbing the smoke stains from their fingers and the point they made was that your lungs can't scrub themselves. Your lungs have a surface area of a tennis court and every square inch has a welcoming army of macrophages and neutrophils to mop up the stuff from the smoke that body does not want and leave all the good stuff. They don't need scrubbing, they are self cleaning unlike your fingers which have to be cleaned by you. Plant smoke in the form of
tobacco smoke can stain your teeth,tongue and skin but it will not discolor your mouth or you lungs and categorically does not cause lung cancer - 20,000,000,000 subject years says so.

Friday, January 11, 2019 at 17:20 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

The antismoking biases are especially strong in this propaganda piece. The representation of harm from 'tar' is inaccurate to the point of being a falsification. The 'research' demonstration they make also inaccurate as it does not actually demonstrate the true biological processes that occur in the lungs but rather is specifically designed to promote an emotive antismoking response.

The vapers that promote this propaganda to further their cause should beware as the 'salami-slice' of prohibition will ultimately target them as the tobacco control tactic of 'divide and conquer' matures. This isn't about health--it's about power and profit.

Friday, January 11, 2019 at 18:10 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Just for the record: I'm an ex-smoker and current vaper - and I fully agree with your criticism.

Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 14:20 | Unregistered CommenterVaping Falconer

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