Public health chiefs have accused e-cigarette users of a campaign of online abuse, saying that junior scientists are being scared away from research by explicit attacks from “vapers” on Twitter.
Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, is facing an official complaint after he retaliated, calling one vaper a “c***” and another an “onanist”.
Vapers, as enthusiasts for e-cigarettes are known, insist that occasional abuse from among their number is merely frustration with a “patronising” public health elite.
The spat illustrates how high passions run over e-cigarettes, both among users and public health experts, who are starkly divided on the issue. More than a million Britons use e-cigarettes, and many say that these have helped to end long smoking habits.
Last week a group of experts said that e-cigarettes had the potential to save tens of thousands of lives if all British smokers switched to them. Because e-cigarettes contain only nicotine, not tobacco, they are considered to be much less harmful than cigarettes.
Yet some public health experts, including the World Health Organisation, say that e-cigarettes must be restricted because the long-term effects of nicotine are unclear.
Professor Ashton was called a “c***”, “asshole” and “jizzweasel” over the weekend for supporting the WHO, while one vaper complained: “I was blocked before I could even take the time to find a fitting insult.”
Professor Ashton and the Faculty of Public Health declined to comment but Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who is another critic of e-cigarettes, said: “If you say anything, they get you within minutes, there’s so many of them. I think it intimidates people from speaking up.
“I now put very little about e-cigarettes on Twitter. I’m worried about junior staff, it’s intimidating for them and people could be frightened off by this. I’ve warned people off doing PhDs in this area. It’s really upsetting for some people with the sheer volume of abuse.”
Lorien Jollye, a vaper who is active on Twitter, said that Professor McKee had wrongly accused e-cigarette users of being in the pay of tobacco companies. While saying it would be better for vapers to stay polite, she added:
“Most of them spent years being bullied as smokers and they’ve found their way out and now they’re being bullied again. It gets to a point where people just can’t take that any more.”
Children will be at risk unless nicotine cartridges on e-cigarettes are made safer, doctors say. A toddler in Birmingham was taken to hospital after swallowing liquid from her mother’s cartridge.
Doctors warn in theArchives of Diseases of Childhood that “the exploratory nature of young children and attractive packaging of refills is a dangerous combination”. The child recovered.”
Originally written By Chris Smyth,