Tuesday, September 16, 2014

UK Professor and Government Health Adviser - An E-Cigarette Opponent - Steps Down After Crude Verbal Attacks on Vapers

Up until two days ago, Professor John Ashton was president of the Faculty of Public Health, an independent health advisory body which provides public health recommendations to health ministers and other UK government officials.

The Faculty of Public Health has been a strong opponent of e-cigarettes in the UK. In its policy statement, it recommends a complete ban on e-cigarette advertising. It also asserts that the tobacco industry is using e-cigarettes to promote cigarette smoking, that electronic cigarettes may be a gateway to smoking among youth, and that there is no solid evidence that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit. This despite its acknowledgment that there is no evidence for a gateway effect and that there is evidence that e-cigarettes are as effective as NRT for smoking cessation.

But today, I report that opponents of electronic cigarettes are using more backhanded tactics than simply drawing unsupported scientific conclusions or distorting the science to support its preconceived position.

The Rest of the Story

Apparently, some opponents of electronic cigarettes are so guided by a strong ideology against anyone who does anything that looks like smoking that their real attitudes surface in a seeming hatred of vapers. This was the case with the president of the Faculty of Public Health.

Recently, Professor Ashton went on what the Daily Mail called "a venomous spat" on Twitter. He made a number of rude and offensive comments about individual vapers, which cannot be repeated here. For details, see the Daily Mail article or this summary of the story.

I believe that this story reveals the venom that many e-cigarette opponents have for the act of smoking and anything that looks like it. And that ideological venom is what is keeping them from forming opinions based on the actual scientific evidence. Professor Ashton's apparent hatred for vapers can only be rooted in an ideology that despises the physical act of smoking, regardless of whether what is being "smoked" contains tobacco or not or whether the behavior is killing the person or perhaps saving his life. In other words, this is a great example to demonstrate the way in which ideology, not science or public health, guides the opinions and statements of many electronic cigarette opponents.

One might argue that this is just one errant professor. However, as it acknowledges on its web site:

"The Faculty of Public Health is the standard setting body for specialists in public health in the United Kingdom. The Faculty of Public Health is a joint faculty of the three Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom (London, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and also a member of the World Federation of Public Health Associations. The Faculty of Public Health is an independently constituted body with its own membership and governance structure. The Faculty of Public Health is the professional home for more than 3,300 professionals working in public health. Our members come from a diverse range of professional backgrounds (including clinical, academic, policy) and are employed in a variety of settings, usually working at a strategic or specialist level. The Faculty of Public Health is a strategic organisation and, as such, works collaboratively, drawing on the specialist skills, knowledge and experience of our members as well as building relationships with a wide range of external organisations."

Thus, this is not just some fringe professor. This is the (former) head of a prestigious public health body that gave advice to the ministers on the electronic cigarette issue and whose advice was seriously considered in formulating e-cigarette policy in the UK.

1 comment:

Blogger said...

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