Thursday, 4 April 2013

Dr Tom Riddington - Junk science and selective information

Dr Tom Riddington published an article about electronic cigarettes in the Guardian newspaper.

The awful article, by Dr Tom Riddington was one of the worst pieces of analysis about e-cigs that I have ever seen, on the subject that Professor John Britton, head of the Tobacco Advisory Group to the Royal College of Physicians recently told the BBC has the ability to save 5 million deaths in the UK alone.

Dr Tom Riddington has clearly done NO research of his own prior to writing the article in my opinion, simply quoting other peoples references apparently without actually reading the source material himself. Piss-poor performance from a medical 'professional' giving advice to the public in a national paper.

So lets have a look at the article and expose the errors, line by line.

First of all, the dramatic headline:
Watch out, e-cigarette smokers - you're inhaling the unknown  
-  Firstly there is no smoke, and secondly it is perfectly well known what is in e-cig vapour. Numerous studies have been done on the content of vapour, I could mention them all, but just to point out that Dr Tom Riddington is clearly unaware of the huge ongoing research being carried out by the Clearstream Project in Italy.

2 errors in the very title - not a good start for the Dr is it ?

The subtitle goes on to say :
Not only are these products not tested and regulated like proper medicines - they are being targeted at the young.  
- Another torrent of errors from Dr Riddington - The products are regularly tested, they are heavily regulated by Trading Standards, they make no claim to be medicines and as for 'targeted at the young' this is simply a barefaced lie, pure bullshit - If I am wrong on this, please send me a link to a UK e-cig company that is targeting at the young (I am waiting).

He goes on to describe some of the benefits of electronic cigarettes, but then his complete ignorance on the subject shines forth again as he declares
But e-cigarettes aren't a medicine
No they are not, in the same way a Salad is not a 'medicine' for someone cutting back on the fat in their food, nor is a glass of water a 'medicine' if someone has it in place of a glass of vodka.

He goes on to decry that
you buy them from a newsagent rather than get them on prescription
But of course, Dr, would I make an appointment for a prescription of coffee ? - The whole point about electronic cigs is that they are a recreational product for adult smokers and should be as widely available as possible to compete with and displace tobacco consumption amongst smokers.

More ignorance on the subject shines through here as he says
they haven't been through the same stringent safety checks as medicated nicotine replacement therapies
Instead of pointing out that they are a consumer product, not a medicated therapy and therefore are subject to even more stringent regulations than NRT, as ECITA recently described here. Failing to mention that there hasn't been a single death or nicotine overdose due to e-cigs which cannot be said for his 'medicated therapy'. As a result of the CHIP regulations that govern e-cigs and e-liquid, we are much LESS likely to read stories like this about them.

But, then again, Dr Tom Riddington appears to know nothing about CHIP regulations and how they apply to e-cigs - perhaps he should have done some research on the subject that can save 5 million deaths.

The Doctor goes on to mention the discredited FDA study that was thrown out of a Federal Court in the USA - and for the first time in the article he gets something correct as he points out that the TSNA's found in that study were at such a low level as to have no effect and at similar levels to those founds in approved NRT.

But we don't seem to keep up the flow of correct information, as he cannot resist pointing out that the discredited study found di-ethylene glycol. He could have kept the flow of good info flowing by mentioning that this was found in one single product out of several tested and that in any case, electronic cigarettes have improved out of all proportion to those available in 2009 and so the study was utterly irrelevant.

More partial information is reported by Dr Tom as he references a study that found traces of metals in e-cig vapour
researchers from the University of California examined in detail the aerosol contents of e-cigarettes. They found particles of silver, iron, aluminium and silicate, and nanoparticles of tin, chromium and nickel.

But Dr Tom has clearly not actually read the report himself and then cross referenced the findings with levels that would be regarded as safe. One person who does actually read reports and check facts is Professor Michael Siegal who provided the correct information about this on his blog showing that the levels of metals found were way below the levels that are regarded as safe.

Next up, Dr Tom Riddington provides the most absurd bit of bullshit in an attempt to smear the e-cig industry with the claim that they are targeting young people.

A comparison can be drawn with alcopops,

No it can't - lets come back to the alcopops question in a bit and first talk about they study that Tom Riddington cites in an effort to add some scientific credence to the smear. He quotes a survey from the Journal of Adolescent Health. It is quite clear, to me, that Dr Tom Riddington has not actually read this survey for himself and checked the data. 

This survey found that not a single nonsmoking youth could be found, among a sample of 228 male adolescents, who actually uses or has ever even tried an electronic cigarette. 
Lets repeat that - not a single nonsmoking youth could be found who has even tried an electronic cigarette - and yet Dr Tom Riggington is using this as some kind of evidence to back up the claim/smear in his headline that e-cigs are "targeting" young people.

A more detailed analysis by a Professor who has actually read the report can be found here.

.Ah yes, I was going to come back to the question of "alcopops" - often used by people who haven't done their research to describe a "gateway" product. Well. anyone who has ever actually worked in an Off-Licence for any period of time will be able to tell you that the number 1 top consumer of "alcopops" is actually middle-aged women - they are not targeted at the "young", they are cleverly aimed at people who want to feel young - but that is another issue, but yet another example that Dr Tom Riddington doesn't know what he is talking about on this subject.

Dr Riddington finishes off his article with a final paragraph that starts
With a little research, it is clear that we do not know the risks of using e-cigarettes

Dr Tom - it is clear to those that understand the subject that it is you who have done little research on this subject and "do not know".


  1. Good Work Glug!

  2. Yet another anti e cig hatchet job by an "expert" ,imo if he wrote this steaming pile of crap without researching the facts then he is an idiot ,but if he knew what he was doing he should be struck off ,good response Matt

  3. Excellent riposte to a load of misinformed nonsense.

  4. I outsourced to you from antiTHRlies:

  5. There was a time when medicine as we know it today would be considered the unknown, in fact with all it's pills and potions it would be considered witchcraft. I take it Dr Tom Riddington yearns for a return to leeches and blood letting, surely not. "Do No Harm", Dr Tom Riddington fails in that respect.

  6. Hi Gluggler, excellent blog. I discovered it via Carl Phillips.
    Jonathan Bagley

  7. Well done Matt - you are a credit to the Vaping Community!

  8. I could not imagine for one moment, the nonsmoking members of my family, suddenly taking up ecigs. It just wouldn't happen. The initial cost of a good ecig would put most youngsters off. Only smokers would have the motivation to switch to them. Most vapers perhaps know more about ecigs than these clueless medics.

  9. Nicely put, Matt.

    One little point about alcopops. They were originally produced by drinks companies after accusations that spirits were packed full of alcohol and too easily abused. So they brought out far lower - by comparison - products instead, which are basically just a spirit and a mixer in lower dosages than drinkers would put together themselves.

    So doctors helped create the "problem" of alcopops. Just like their predecessors' panic about largely harmless opium a hundred or so years ago motivated them to create cocaine and heroin.

  10. Very nice response, Matt- how do they get to write this stuff and still get paid to dispense health advice...?

  11. Brilliant article Matt this guy shouldn't be a GP if he don't know how to research

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