Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Feature Tobacco

Why e-cigarettes are dividing the public health community

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 24 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3317

Rapid Response:

Re: Why e-cigarettes are dividing the public health community

Alas this is a poorly researched article which misses the point. There are four main parties involved in this debate. 1) Public health activists and bodies who are not experts in the field of tobacco control, who misunderstand what is relatively complex evidence and present their misunderstandings to the wider community. 2) Vapers, many of whom have no financial conflict of interest but feel passionately that a solution to the problem of stopping smoking that they have found should not be vilified or discouraged through mis-representation of the evidence. 3) Vested interest, including the tobacco industry, and their supporters. 4) Tobacco researchers and NGOs that have been working tirelessly in the field for decades and have achieved the considerable amount of progress made thus far but believe on the basis of a careful analysis of the evidence that a comprehensive tobacco control strategy is the way forward, including possibly appropriate regulation of e-cigarettes of the kind currently in force in England. ASH, CRUK, the British Heart Foundation, the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, and Public Health England fall into this fourth group - a group that has no truck whatsoever with the idea of engaging with the tobacco industry. Readers may judge for themselves which group the BMA, the Faculty of Public Health and other high profile commentators fall into.

Competing interests: I have undertaken research and consultancy for Pfizer and GSK who manufacture smoking cessation medications but not e-cigarettes. My salary is funded by Cancer Research UK. I have not accepted and will not accept any direct or indirect financial or or other potentially beneficial links with e-cigarette manufacturers or the tobacco industry or its subsidiaries.

25 June 2015
Robert West
Professor of Health Psychology
University College London
1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT