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The RSPH is asking UK vape shops to adhere to a code of conduct and refuse selling vaping products to non smokers. This plea comes following an “undercover investigation” conducted by the organization, which revealed that almost nine in 10 stores (87%), are seemingly willing to sell the products to people who have never lit up before.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 97.4% of current vapers are either current or former smokers.
The RSPH website said, “The investigation into 100 of the UK’s 1,700 specialist vape shops in February 2017 found that:
  • Almost half (45%) of stores did not check whether new customers were current or former smokers.
  • Three quarters (76%) of those that did check continued to encourage the customer to start vaping, even once they knew they were a non-smoker.”

Nothing but a publicity stunt?

Clive Bates, was unimpressed by this investigation. “Naturally, the primary purpose of this exercise has little to do with public health but is a publicity stunt for an ailing organisation in a declining field that offers ever less to the public or to health.” he said on his blog.

He followed up by writing to the Royal Society of Public Health, explaining why he is appalled by such a “cheap stunt.”

“Naturally, the primary purpose of this exercise has little to do with public health but is a publicity stunt for an ailing organisation in a declining field that offers ever less to the public or to health.”Clive Bates, Counterfactual

“I write to express dismay and disappointment at your ill-founded criticism of vaping retailers with an ‘undercover investigation’ (press release Undercover investigation finds 9 in 10 vape shops prepared to sell to non-smokers 7 April). It is a bizarre and contrived study raising a false alarm about a non-problem. RSPH have made much of the idea that vape shops do not check if their customers are non-smokers. But it is not surprising that they do not make these checks for several reasons.  These reasons are missing context in the press release you have sent out to national media. Let me try to provide that context here.”

In contrast with official data

He went on to list a number of reasons as to why the report is unsound, amongst which the fact that according to the Office for National Statistics, 97.4% of current vapers are either current or former smokers. “Of the remaining 2.6% that self describe as never-smokers but current vapers, the reasons given for vaping suggest that many either have been smokers or that they are potential smokers.”

Amongst other things, Bates added that it is disappointing that the RSPH went straight to the media without first publishing its findings in a journal. He added that while the organization is accusing these retailers to be violating a Code of Conduct of the Independent British Vape Trade Association, the IBVTA is no regulator and its code is not mandatory.

“It is a bizarre and contrived study raising a false alarm about a non-problem.”Clive Bates, Counterfactual

“Perhaps you should stop wasting time and money on stunts that have the aim or effect of demonising much safer alternatives to smoking, harming decent businesses doing a good job, misleading the media and diverting attention from much more pressing problems.” concluded Bates.