Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Medicine and the Media

The mixed messages that led to an e-cigarette shambles

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 26 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j4460
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. London, UK
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Journalists had fun with conflicting information on the safety of vaping, writes Nigel Hawkes, but behind the reporting were some interesting new data

To vape or not to vape: that is the question. It divides public health specialists, some of whom favour electronic cigarettes to aid smoking cessation and some of whom do not. Feelings on both sides run strong.

There’s much need, then, to tread carefully. So when Public Health England decided to include e-cigarettes in its annual “Stoptober” smoking cessation television advertisements for the first time this year (, it might have been wise to ensure that no other government body was poised with advice that could conflict.

Alas, “the grid”—a government schedule of announcements developed in the Tony Blair years and designed to avoid clashes of just this kind—seems to …

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