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JUUL hysteria continues to spread

America’s latest moral panic – the fear that JUUL e-cigarettes are turning the nation’s youth into nicotine addicts – showed no signs of subsiding this week, as a slew of new media reports fanned the flames. An assortment of outlets ranging from local news sites and health pages to AOL and Fox News affiliates all put out stories on JUUL use by young people, and the tone was relentlessly negative.

Common themes in reporting were that JUUL can be recharged via a USB port – which isn’t exactly remarkable in the field of consumer electronics – and that “it looks like a USB stick”, suggesting that the media are being fed information by anti-harm reduction campaigners. Several local anti-smoking groups were quoted as claiming that, because JUUL contains nicotine, it’s just as dangerous as a tobacco cigarette. There were also some wilder claims, such as that the device is being marketed at children or that it’s possible to add marijuana oil to the pods (which are factory sealed and non-refillable).

Spokespeople for JUUL were quoted in several stories; they pointed out that the device is intended for adult smokers and that it’s illegal to sell one to anyone under 18. The company also highlighted the fact that their own policy is to only sell to people aged 21 or over.

New pro-vaping campaign launches in UK

A new campaign aimed at encouraging smokers to switch was launched in the UK this week. VApril, organised by the UK Vapour Industry Association, is offering practical assistance to smokers across the country who want to move to a safer alternative. The campaign is headed up by popular TV medic Dr Christian Jessen, a long-time harm reduction advocate who has consistently supported vaping.

The core of the VApril campaign is a series of vaping masterclasses being run in vape shops from 3-30 April. These will introduce smokers to the range of vapour products that’s currently available, and give them advice on the best starter kits and liquids to buy based on their own smoking habits. For those who can’t make one of the classes there’s also a downloadable guide on what equipment and liquid to buy; this guide also gives the real facts about the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking alternative.

Unlike existing stop smoking campaigns like Stoptober, VApril is entirely funded by the vaping industry and imposes no costs on the taxpayer. The number of people registering for the annual publicly-funded Stoptober campaign has fallen so rapidly that Public Health England no longer release the figures.

NHS tells doctors: Stick to facts on vaping safety

Britain’s National Health Service is due to release new guidance for doctors, urging them to tell smokers that vapour products are “substantially less harmful” than cigarettes. While the new policy doesn’t go as far as to openly recommend vaping, health chiefs hope it will counter the misinformation that anti-vaping activists have spent years spreading.

Pressure for the NHS to take a clearer position on vaping has been growing since last year, when Public Health England launched a series of TV adverts urging smokers to switch to vaping at the same time as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, another government health group, insisted that e-cigarettes couldn’t be recommended. This sent out mixed messages to a public that was already confused enough.

Now PHE and NICE have agreed a compromise position. Doctors are not being asked to actively recommend vaping, but they are being told they should tell smokers that vapour products are much less harmful and have helped many people to quit smoking. Over all it’s a positive message, and has already been welcomed by the Royal College of General Practitioners, who described it as “helpful”.

New Jersey vapers fight back against punitive tax

Following a proposal by New Jersey governor Phil Murphy to slap a massive 75% tax on vapour products, the state’s vapers have launched a petition to overturn the measure. Murphy wants the tax to increase the state’s revenue and support planned budget expansions; however, industry experts caution that it’s likely to wipe out vape shops and manufacturers across the state, pushing up unemployment and losing business tax revenue. Pro-harm reduction campaigners pointed out that Philadelphia’s 40% tax on vapour products has caused over 100 business closures so far, with more expected in the next few months.

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