Is This Charity?

On 12 June 2013 Cancer Research UK (CRUK) posted an article on their blog entitled “Licensing e-cigarettes: opportunities and risks“. Now, CRUK is an organisation I’ve always supported – after all, who could not support a charity that devotes all its resources to fighting cancer?

The answer, now, is me. Anyone who’s used e-cigarettes to get themselves away from smoking and the cancer risk that creates may want to join me in finding someone else to donate money to in future.

The blog post started off reasonably enough, with a discussion of harm reduction policy. In the fourth paragraph, however, they described the MHRA’s insane plan to do away with the only effective alternative to smoking yet discovered as “good news,” and went on to say it’s a “great idea” to bring these recreational nicotine devices (which cure nothing) under medicinal legislation. Sadly the post went on to regurgitate a whole series of old disinformation which stank badly enough first time round. Along with that they came out with some comments which were frankly insane, such as:

  • E-cigarettes aren’t an effective aid to stopping smoking because they’re too like smoking. In fact this is precisely why they do work!
  • If people can use e-cigs in non-smoking areas (which makes sense, seeing as there’s no smoke) they might want to keep smoking where they’re allowed to. Of course this fails to account for the fact that flavoured vapour tastes much better than burned leaves…

And finally this crap:

  • “their use in smoke-free places and in marketing images could have a knock on effect of ‘renormalising’ smoking” – despite the fact that it isn’t smoking!

Unsurprisingly the post quickly attracted a large number of comments, every one of which disagreed with it. Apparently this was unexpected because the post’s author, one Alison Cox, popped up to explain that the commenters (including me) had it all wrong. The MHRA weren’t actually planning to ban anything, she assured us. All it would mean is that we’d pay less VAT.

Well, naturally this caused a degree of uproar. It was pointed out several times that the MHRA’s Jeremy Mean has plainly stated that none of the currently available e-cigarettes are of an acceptable standard, and would therefore be banned (in fact if this goes through the only ones available in 2016 will be Nicolites and Intellicig – of which more later.)

Cox ignored this.

When she popped up again she merely repeated her claim that nothing was going to be banned because of its “shape, colour, format etc” (although it’s significant that she didn’t mention flavour) and didn’t even mention the fact that the only two devices with any chance of being licensed are cigalikes. Apparently we were all supposed to just shut up and take her word for it that we’d be happy with what we’re to be allowed – she “[doesn’t] see MHRA licensing as a barrier to effective products being available” despite the MHRA having already said they’re going to ban EVERYTHING except Nicolites and Intellicig!

We didn’t buy this.

The final act was the appearance of Henry Scowcroft, of whom Alison Cox appears to be a minion. He went off on a long and complex explanation of CRUK’s relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and didn’t bother to say a word about any of the concerns that had been raised. Nothing about the MHRA’s proposal, nothing about the impact it will have on vaping. This was raised by several people, at which point Henry basically told us all to ram it. He mentioned some spurious concerns about “how the market is developing” – which seemed to be the tobacco company involvement that the MHRA’s proposals have made possible – then flatly stated this:

We’ve now said all we’re going to say re. our position on the MHRA ruling, and will not be commenting further except to reiterate it

In other words they can’t even be bothered to discuss their stance on this legislation with the people who will be affected, inconvenienced and perhaps killed by it. That, I think, says it all about the respect in which CRUK holds the British public. They’ve got too big, too established and too comfortable as part of the quasi-medical establishment to listen any more; all we’re expected to do is keep the money flowing into their coffers then shut up and meekly wait for their next pronouncement.

Well no, sorry, that’s not going to work. I’ve dropped a lot of pound coins into CRUK collecting tins in the past; as a smoker it seemed like a sensible contribution towards a slightly more secure future. However now that I’m a vaper they appear to be trying to kill me. There will be no more donations to Cancer Research UK from me until they reverse their stance on this and openly oppose medicalisation of e-cigarettes.

I urge everyone who’s turned to e-cigarettes and managed to either reduce or eliminate their tobacco consumption to join me in this boycott. There are plenty of other charities who deserve your money, ones that won’t grab your cash with one hand and stick a lit cigarette in your mouth with the other. Give your donations to them instead; let’s see if CRUK will suddenly want to listen to us when their dismissive attitude starts hurting them in the pocket.

This post was written by

I’m a freelance writer and former soldier, originally from Glasgow but now living in Germany. E-cigarettes let me quit smoking after more than 20 years. I’m not going to sit back and let self-important jobsworths regulate them out of existence just because they’re too difficult to understand.

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