Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Observations Observations

E-cigarettes and the marketing push that surprised everyone

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 26 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5780

Rapid Response:

Re: E-cigarettes and the marketing push that surprised everyone

I have been overwhelmed by the response to my paper. Within a few hours of it being posted on the BMJ website I was attracting hundreds of messages on twitter, almost all personally abusive (“Vile cretin” was one of the kinder ones). I had no idea that the e-cigarette lobby was so well organised. Indeed, I was impressed with the speed by which this lobby created a web page on me, advising those posting tweets to moderate their comments as they were bringing the e-cigarette movement into disrepute (and suggesting that my paper was in some way an attempt to entrap them).[1] The content of this mass of tweets justifies an academic analysis in its own right and I hope someone will undertake it.

For now I simply note that Clive Bates misrepresents me. I never said that e-cigarettes were a tobacco industry response to public health controls on smoking. Indeed, I noted explicitly that they were invented in 1963. What I did say is that the tobacco industry has, very recently, moved in to the market, taking over the small manufacturers, reformulating the product to look like real cigarettes, and marketing them on a vast scale. It is therefore no surprise that, as he notes, sales are booming.

Other responses have countered his arguments in detail, backed up by extensive evidence, and do not need repeating. However, I do feel it necessary to draw attention to one of his statements: “The normal controls on truth and fairness in advertising, supplemented by restrictions of the type applied to alcohol, should be sufficient to balance public health opportunities and fears that something might go wrong.” If he really believes that measures to address marketing by the alcohol industry have been effective, I leave others to judge the weight to place on his comments on e-cigarettes.

[1] The ANTZ pet rabble rouser. (accessed 2 Oct 2013)

Competing interests: Author of original paper

02 October 2013
Martin McKee
Professor of European Public Health
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH