Guest blog by Louise Ross: Whose health are we talking about?

Intro by Clive Bates. You may remember Louise Ross’s brilliant first outing on this blog: Let there be light!. Louise runs […]

Intro by Clive Bates. You may remember Louise Ross’s brilliant first outing on this blog: Let there be light!. Louise runs the NHS Stop Smoking Service in Leicester and she was full of optimism for the potential of vaping to help smokers quit smoking.   She has carried on the mission and inspired and enthused many others.  But here, in a new guest blog,  she explains her anger and ‘speechless sadness’ at the damage caused by WHO when it published its report on ‘Electronic Nicotine delivery Systems’ (e-cigarettes) in August – criticised in full in my detailed report and letter to COP6 delegates.

The good thing is that Louise has renewed determination. She is an example to us all… and the truth will eventually prevail.

Louise Ross’s guest blog starts here… 

photo for article

Whose health are we talking about?

Only a few months ago, our Stop Smoking service was getting a huge amount of interest from people who wanted to know how they could use ecigs to switch from smoked tobacco. They told us how they had tried and failed with licensed products, or how they had managed for a few weeks or months, and then gone back to smoking again, after some bad news, or at a time of stress. We also talked to people who had never even considered stopping smoking before, but had heard from friends that ecigs had done it for them, and wanted to know more.

Some signed up with us, and quit with their vaporisers, some tried it and found that it wasn’t what they were looking for, and chose licensed products, to see if that worked for them any better. For some it did, and I’m pleased that we can support people to choose what works for them, rather than take a prescriptive line about what they must use.

And then it all seemed to change. Just around the time we had planned a lot of public-facing events for Stoptober, the WHO report came out, followed by media headlines and scare-stories about how vaping ‘might’ cause numbers of smokers to increase, and that experts were ‘concerned’ that youth smoking may rise. In among all the headlines, extra urban myths had entered the public consciousness, it seemed. In late September, we stood at a market stall, giving out Stop information and telling people what we had to offer. ‘No, I’m sticking to smoking’ was what they told us, over and over. ‘I’ve seen it on telly, it’s safer to carry on smoking.’ Illogical though this mind-set was, it seemed impossible to shift. My team reported the same thing at their workplace events: a general fear of quitting smoking combined with relief that carrying on smoking is actually endorsed! By experts!

Somewhere, something has gone terribly wrong, and the opportunities presented by alternative nicotine delivery devices, so promising earlier in the year, have been casually damaged by a risk-averse body of people whose responsibility it is to improve health, and by a section of the media industry that sells more papers by frightening people.

I’m waiting for a good news story from nationally respected bodies who I know are working on a reversal of this, but until then, all I can do is keep making sure local people know that Stop is there to support them to get smokefree, and work at repairing some of the damage done by people who would do well to listen to the many positive stories told by vapers, who know that they will never go back to smoking.

At first I felt just impotent anger, then speechless sadness. Now I’m back on track, determined to add my voice to this unfathomable battle. I’m doing it because I want more people to see more birthdays.

Louise Ross
Stop Smoking Service Manager
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust
Twitter: @grannylouisa
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36 thoughts on “Guest blog by Louise Ross: Whose health are we talking about?”

  1. Thank you!

    As I’ve said many times before, I just cannot understand where WHO, the BMA and some members of the FPH are coming from. Any serious review of the existing science confirms that ecigs are many orders of magnitude safer than smoking. The repeated scaremongering does nothing for harm reduction, in fact it causes harm. People who were ready to try and quit smoking are deterred and the opportunity to help these individuals to quit may never be regained.
    I also alternate between enthusiasm, rage and despair.
    Again, thank you for assisting so well with the advocacy.

  2. It’s a sad state of affairs. There are a lot of powerful bodies that profit from tobacco use (not just big tobacco). I don’t doubt their drive for self preservation. Vaping is the David in this Goliath battle.

  3. Here’s a new analytic with which to gauge policy: “The Louise Ross More Birthdays Test”!

    A corollary to Peter Hajek’s “is smoking going to go up or down?” question, forcing us to make decisions in the absence of perfect information about how we preserve the most quality birthdays as quickly as possible.

    Losing the smoke has to be part of the answer, and whatever it takes to get there is the other part, IMHO.

    Thank you, Clive and Louise.

  4. The power of the media is amazing… just one positive story printed in a national newspaper or a piece on a national news programme would turn this all around. It saddens me that all the hard work that you’ve done Louise could so easily be undone by scaremongering and twisted truths. There’s clearly some ulterior motive behind all of this, and we all know that money is the driving force. The hope is that people will see the lies for what they are, and realise that the best course of action is to use good old common sense. The more popular Vaping becomes, the more desperate the stories will become that try to put people off it. We used to hear stories of people getting injured in fires caused by cigarette smoking, those have suddenly stopped…. yet more than likely, more people get hurt from smoking tobacco than using Ecigs. Draw your own conclusions…

  5. Keep going Louise. I tend to think that there are those within tobacco control who do not wish to see people stop smoking. However, there are also many, like yourself, who have a genuine desire to do something good, and work tirelessly towards that end – and I believe they are the majority. it is, as described above, a David and Goliath struggle, with a small cohort in Tobacco Control having access to the media, and that is our weakness.

    Truth and science will prevail, of that I am sure. You / we, hold the moral high ground and from that position we cannot be shifted.

  6. I have said this many times before, but I cannot say it more clearly. When those who claim to be fighting a ‘holy war on tobacco’ start attacking the best weapon so far developed to help them achieve their objective, one has to ask what is their TRUE objective. Is it, perhaps, simply preservation of their funding from pharma, tobacco and government (ie taxpayers)? E-cigarettes are NOT cigarettes, they are NOT smoking; they should NOT be considered the enemy!

    We need the truth to be made available. Tobacco Control has (deliberately) twisted science in order to inflame public attitudes to smoking. By treating vaping in the same way, they will almost certainly create a backlash that is likely to undermine their own activities. If people disbelieve the propaganda against vaping, how long will it be before they disbelieve the propaganda against smoking?

  7. The good that comes from switching to ecigs is being denigrated via tv programmes such as CH5 The Wright Stuff, and the smug responses from the presenter when he had asked a question of a caller who works in the ecig industry and she was unable to answer. This kind of programme does little to encourage society to try ecigs out. The media also loves to denigrate ecigs, when it often is the user that caused their ecig to explode and cause fire/injury. Until these kinds of rubbish reporting are removed, and idiotic regulation ceases(ecigs contain no tobacco yet are included in the tobacco products regulations)smoking will continue to kill people.

  8. Adam Williams

    “we stood at a market stall, giving out Stop information and telling people what we had to offer. ‘No, I’m sticking to smoking’ was what they told us, over and over”
    Statistically, 50% of these people will go on to die from cigarette related disease!
    When are the media going to cotton on that the WHO, BMA etc are contributing to an avoidable genocide?
    I hope heads roll when they do.

  9. I passed by a woman stood smoking by the back door of a shop the other day, and as I did so I waved my ecig at her and said “You should give one of these a try”.
    “I did”, she said “but then I heard that it can affect your breathing”.
    So I stopped and had a bit of chat – suggested she do a bit more research, and perhaps go for a better quality device as her only experience had been of a cigalike.
    Maybe she will, maybe she won’t – but it’s pretty clear that there are thousands of smokers out there who’ve been put off vaping by the mass media.

  10. Id like to add my support, again, to Loiuse, who is doing a brilliant job. I switched to ecigs about 18 months ago, after smoking for over 40 years. The negative views of the WHO in particular makes me very angry – they are indirectly killing people.

  11. Hi Louise

    While it’s good to hear you support ecigs, not all NHS quit smoking clinics do. Our of our customers in Gloucester was told by an NHS quit smoking clinic not to use ecigs because they had toxins in them, while another received medical advice that ecigarettes were no better than tobacco cigarettes.

  12. Louise, please just keep on keeping on, and bear in mind that in December 2012 when it was made clear that e-cigs had been cunningly implanted in the Tobacco Products Directive, scarcely anyone had even heard of them! Certainly none of our MEPs seemed to be aware of their existence, but with dogged persistence we managed to achieve the seemingly impossible and not only inform them but win them over to seeing the amazing possibilities of the product – the attempt to medicalise the e-cig was thrown out. The media are complicit in causing the deaths of vulnerable people with their scare-mongering, but we have to accept that good news is not newsworthy. I believe I have come across yet another rather nasty little ploy. As an asthmatic and (alleged) COPD sufferer – I say alleged because I was not tested but my then asthma nurse told me I was early stage – I joined a Health Forum. Yesterday there was a post from someone I had never previously encountered and she was so grateful that e-cigs were not available in her village when she gave up, as she might otherwise have become addicted. She then went on to extol the virtues of Chantix. I am not saying this was a post from a Pharma shill, that could be actionable, but have seen enough of them over the past two years to be very suspicious indeed. I posted the link to the suicide and failed suicide figures caused by this drug, and it was great to be able to add that since Leicester had no problem with their customers using the e-cig then why should it be a problem for the rest of us. The folk on that forum are vulnerable and desperate; they get what amounts to a death sentence from a “White Coat” and in the same breath are told they must stop smoking, which in many cases is the only comfort they have. Happily, many doctors are now encouraging patients to try vaping, despite the BMA and its misguided stance. This has been a wordy post but what I’m really saying is that we are all in it for the long haul, and I so admire you and am grateful to you for your enlightened approach and your courage in challenging the establishment. Please believe that we WILL get there in the end.

  13. I went away for a weekend, where I had some interesting things happen.
    An ex-newspaper person told me, they are NOT to report anything positive to do with ecigs or nicotine. I met two people who were conned into believing negative stories they had read. One was “they will lead kids in to smoking normal cigarettes.” I explained how foul cigarettes tasted after using an e-cig. And, I will back that up now.
    I forgot to take my charger with me (works for both, phone and e-cig) meaning I had to buy a packet of “smokes” I suffer with anxiety attacks, I prefer nicotine over valium. There is no way in hell I will forget my charger again nor would I go back to smoking those filthy things again, full stop!
    The other person read “they could effect your breathing” (in a negative way) I told him about my asthmatic neighbor, who took up an ecig and within a month or so said thanks for introducing him to ecigs as he his using his “puffer” far less since quitting smoking.
    The only negative I have found…. I’ll let you you know when I find one.

    To the doctors of WHO Resign, you have broken your Hippocratic oath. To deny people’s right to switch to electric cigarettes is to let people die without the available help at hand.

  14. This is terribly sad. I’m thrilled you are perservering, and hopefully there will be some better news in the future. Thanks for all you do!

  15. Just wanted to add that I’m one of those who quit smoking with e-cigs after quite a few failed attempts at cold turkey, patches, etc. So keep up the good work.

  16. Thank you Louise for your continued excellent work in harm reduction.
    As for the scaremonger elements in Public health I hope they are happy to have now jumped in bed with tobacco companies and so negate any of the gains made by harm reduction.

  17. Had been smoking 3-4 packs of cigs a day for over 40 yrs been 2 months now haven’t had a cig and am vapping 0 nicotine solution thank you ecigs !!!!!

  18. Thank you, Louise and Clive. You are both an inspiration to us all.

    May I just point out that I agree completely that this is a ‘David and Goliath’ struggle – and we would do well to remember that David WON!!!

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  20. Louise, I salute you, I see your adoption of ecigs as one of the pivotal moments in this struggle.
    To describe the WHO as misguided is to ignore their appreciation of how fragile and tentative the first steps away from burnt tobacco can be. Their actions are frankly unconscionable when lives are hanging in the breeze.
    Humans are prone to behave in strange ways when confronted with new things that they don’t understand, education is the only answer to save them from creating new devils and demons. In the age of enlightenment I expect so much more from people of “science”.

  21. Louise, you are to be applauded for your work, and that’s definitely not for the faint hearted. As a resident of OZ, we could only dream of having a public health advocate like you :) Imagine trying to offer ecigs as an alternative in a country where the purchase of nicotine is essentially banned. You and Clive Bates as an alliance are awesome and thank you both for your time and effort on this issue :)

  22. I smoked from age 13. From age 20, at least 30 a day.
    I tried patches, spray, gum, lozenges and hypnotherapy to quit. I once quit for 4 whole weeks – but that was a one off. Mostly my quitting rarely lasted more that a day or two.

    After a redundancy in May 2012, I went onto E-Cigs, purely from a monetary angle, and decided to “treat myself” to a pack of ten on all to rare nights out.

    Twice I bought packets of 10 as planned, then thought “why bother?” – the E-Cig tastes better, doesn’t smell, I can do it indoors and I was starting to see some health benefits too.

    I have seriously never looked back, and my GP considers me to be a non smoker.

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  24. Louise, you truly are an inspirational figure. For all their bluster and backslapping, the policy makers and politicians claiming to be “fighting the good fight” against the evils of Big Tobacco are doing no such thing. The fight is at the coal face of public health. The fight is with people like yourself desperate to help people stop smoking. If someone in a position such as yours can “get it”, then there is hope for us all.

    As we seem to be doing personal stories, I was one of the sector you would never have reached. I was the smoker who deliberately smoked more on No Smoking day. I was the one who blew clouds as I shrugged off the leaflet being handed to me by SSS workers in the high street. I was going to be a smoker until the day I died.

    Or so I thought. Then I found out about ecigs, and after a bit of research decided to order a starter kit – nothing special, just a couple of eGo’s and CE4’s with a nice strong (and now sadly to be illegal) 24mg juice. I opened the pack, found it had some charge in the batteries, shrugged and filled a tank… and from that moment to this I havent had so much as a single drag on a cigarette.

    This was for me. This was RIGHT. And this was so much better for my health with none of the hardships of “quitting” that I would have been crazy to go back. That was nearly a year and half ago. I can only imagine the benefits to my health I would be enjoying today if I had discovered them 5 years ago – and that is where your services really make a difference to peoples lives.

    Keep on keeping on Louise. The vaping community love you for trying.

  25. I echo all the thanks from people on here, Louise. I am so glad you are back on track. When I read of the WHO’s stance I did not feel sad, just very angry. And yet more determined to fight for e-cigarettes. I hope that those at WHO responsible for their outrageous actions against e-cigs, in defiance of the science (ignorance cannot be an excuse for people in such a position of authority in the health world) will live to regret what they have already done and what they seem determined to continue doing to destroy e-cigs. I like your approach. Different things work for different people. There is no need for NRTs to be the enemy of e-cigs or vice versa. But people have the right to accurate information, so that they can make an informed choice. The WHO seems determined that people will be denied that basic right and to take that choice away from people. Shame on them!

  26. Bill Godshall

    Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control is funding state and local health agencies to exclusively promote FDA approved NRT and Chantix as the only effective way to quit smoking, to make false and misleading fear mongering claims about e-cigs, and to lobby for vaping bans and for FDA’s deeming regulation (which would protect cigarettes by banning >99.9% of e-cigs and give the e-cig industry to Big Tobacco companies).

    Any state or local health agencies that suggest smokers consider e-cigs for quitting smoking face losing their federal funding.

    Similarly, Big Pharma has given tens (perhaps hundreds) of millions of dollars to CTFK, ACS, AHA, ALA, AAP, Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, researchers and so-called smoking cessation experts to exclusively promote FDA approved NRT and Chantix as the only effective way to quit smoking, and to demonize and lobby to ban the manufacture, import, sales and use of e-cigs.

    And of course, anyone who works at FDA, CDC, US SG, many state and local health agencies, CTFK, ACS, AHA, ALA, AAP, etc. would be fired immediately if they truthfully told the public that e-cigs have helped many smokers quit smoking and reduce cigarette consumption, that e-cigs aren’t gateways to cigarettes, that e-cigs are exponentially less hazardous than cigarettes, or that e-cigs pose no risks to nonusers.

    As long as the WHO, Obama’s DHHS, Big Pharma shills and other e-cig prohibitionists continue to lie to the public about e-cigs and continue to lobby to ban their manufacture, sales and use, hundreds of millions of smokers will continue to smoke and continue to die.

    This is nothing less that unethical and inhumane public health malpractice.

    Bill Godshall
    Executive Director
    Smokefree Pennsylvania
    1926 Monongahela Avenue
    Pittsburgh, PA 15218
    [email protected]

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  29. I myself have been struggling to stop smoking but to no avail. What is the best way for this…

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  32. Jeff Charlesworth

    It is frustrating, we just opened a company, CIRRUSbox and we aren’t allowed to even market as a cessation device. I don’t know how the FDA can be so laissez faire about the smoking epidemic and as soon as something that comes along that actually works, put all their effort into demonizing it.

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