Picture credit: BAT Science
“What happened in the US last year has really highlighted the importance of good product stewardship, trusted retailers and buying from reputable sources.”
In the first of a two-part feature, we talk to Dr Chris Proctor, Group Head of Potentially Reduced Risk Product Science at British American Tobacco, about the role of science and research in the UK vape industry.
Words: Patrick Griffin
The vaping industry has always had its detractors but for the last six months or so it seems that it has been under attack like never before.
The recent ‘vape-related’ lung injury crisis in the United States – which turned out to have been caused by vitamin E acetate added to illegal THC vape devices – is a case in point.
While the illness was limited to the USA and Canada, the reputational damage it caused to vaping in general was felt throughout the world and caused many people to question whether they should either switch to vaping in the first place or simply carry on smoking.
Now, more than ever, it is of vital importance that the entire industry works hard to demonstrate to the public that e-cigarettes really a better option than smoking.
Dr Chris Proctor, Group Head of Potentially Reduced Risk Product Science at British American Tobacco, says what has happened in America highlights the importance of good scientific research within the vape industry.
He said: “What happened in the US last year has really highlighted the importance of good product stewardship, trusted retailers and buying from reputable sources.
“From the beginning of our journey in 2013, we have done so much science including chemistry, biology and many clinical studies. We also keep our own active monitoring of any consumer complaints that might be related to health.
“We have 50 toxicologists looking at what we’re putting into our products so that we know precisely what is in our liquid.
“The key message for vapers in the UK is to buy products from reputable retailers who work with reputable manufacturers and use the products as they were intended – don’t start messing with them.”
Now that vaping is gaining more traction this has led to a barrage of negative stories in the mainstream media and online is causing people to question the safety of vaping. As the media warm to the theme of vaping scare stories this is something the industry will need to address.
Dr Proctor added: “The most trusted source of information in the UK is Public Health England and I think PHE will continue to be a voice of reason for vapers.
“The message is very simple; if you switch from smoking to vaping don’t go back to smoking because vaping is 95 percent less risky than smoking.
“We will continue to invest in the quality of our products and there is huge transparency in our science. Our R&D is open to visitors and hundreds of people come through just to see the science we’re doing and what our labs look like.
“We also publish everything we do including those areas where there may be issues such as diacetyl and about chemicals that can form diacetyl. We published a lot on our stewardship approaches to this as well as the basic chemistry, biology and our clinical studies and we will continue to do so.”
He described the UK as a country which was the most accepting of vaping and tobacco harm reduction but said that even here many really good independent studies “did not get much of a voice.”
By way of example Dr Proctor quoted a University of Dundee two year study looking at heart disease risk amongst smokers and vapers. He said that after just one month, heart disease risk by markers in the body had reduced substantially amongst those who had switched from smoking to vaping.
He added: “This is a remarkable study which is consistent with our data. We have done clinical studies which show that within a day, carbon monoxide is removed from the body at the same rate as quitting If you switch to a vaping product.”
He also praised the annual Stoptober quit-smoking campaign but said it may be more effective if backed up by advice from doctors and pharmacists so that the message was more consistent about vaping being a better choice for smokers.