Following Martin McKee’s 2nd attack on vapers in the same number of days I submitted a ‘rapid response’ via the BMJ website two days ago, which still hasn’t appeared. So here it is in full:
This is the second article  I have read today in which McKee attempts to conflate the e-cigarette industry, libertarian bloggers and angry e-cigarette consumers (vapers) in an attempt to paint the latter group as an astroturf organisation in the pay of either big tobacco or big vapour, which of course to his mind are one and the same thing. Is it any wonder that people who do not have the luxury of being published in prestigious journals such as this get even more angry when being maligned in one?
Either McKee does not understand the public he purports to protect or his comments are disingenuous in the extreme. I know that McKee has read Clive Bates’ blog article entitled ‘Memo to public health grandees: vaping, vapers and you’  which attracted 111 positive comments from consumers and is the most read and shared article on the Counterfactual site. I personally asked McKee to read that article because Bates has absolutely nailed the thoughts and feelings of vapers on the head, as is evident from the comments. My request to McKee to read it was a genuine attempt to create some understanding between our two sides. He confirmed that he’d read it, but the message appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
McKee is completely entrenched and out of touch. He is of course free to disagree with Bates’ article, but cannot deny the fact that it has the widespread support of the very people who are its subject. McKee has himself researched a member of the public and indeed uncovered the shocking fact that one Twitter user (who uses his own name and very colourful language) is a freelance writer who sometimes gets paid to write positive articles about e-cigarettes. If he’d researched further he may also have found that this is common knowledge, as is the fact that the person is a British ex soldier with several tours of duty under his belt, which probably explains the liberal use of creative profanities. One, sometimes foul mouthed, squaddie with a genuinely held belief that public health will kill people doth not an astroturf lobby make.
There appears to be a concerted effort by some in public health to deliberately make false associations between a genuine grass roots consumer campaign and organisations with commercial interests, the more malign the better. This of course serves two purposes, firstly, it undermines the voice and views of the public by instilling the false belief that their views are paid for rather than their own. Secondly, it allows those in public health who are apparently unable to control their own behaviour to keep their jobs due to “mitigating circumstances” – those circumstances presumably being that they were baited into calling members of the public “c**ts” and “onanists” by industry shills with agendas .
One thing is for sure – if McKee and others continue to provoke vapers with false accusations whilst failing to engage with them on the issues which are important to them, the relationship between the two sides is only going to get worse, and PH will only have themselves to blame. If your job is public health and you find that the public are angry with you then you really should be asking yourself a question – and here’s a clue – it’s not “who is paying them”.
 Martin McKee – Peering through the Smokescreen http://pmj.bmj.com/content/early/2014/10/07/postgradmedj-2014-133029.extract
 Clive Bates – The Counterfactual – ‘Memo to public health grandees: vaping, vapers and you’ http://www.clivebates.com/?p=2391
 The Times – E-Cigarette debate Heats up in online War of Words http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/science/article4200758.ece
Statement from the Faculty of Public Health (now removed from the site): “The Board has registered its strong disapproval of Professor Ashton’s comments, whilst noting the mitigating circumstances. The Board also agreed that Professor Ashton should continue in his role as President and has given clear direction on the necessary steps to support his return”