Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Martin McKee - talks rubbish, no research and out of touch

Martin McKee
Martin McKee

Last night, Prof Martin McKee appeared on BBC Radio 4 on their Inside Health show.

He was there to talk about the subject of electronic cigarettes, a subject that he displays little or no understanding of, so one has to wonder why he was chosen ?

The answer, it seems, was that it was down to a bit of a mistake, because the presenter wrongly thought that he was a "leading light" on the subject.

Indeed, that is how this part of the show started, with the words:
" I am joined by three leading lights in the field" - which explains the mistake.

You see, when it comes to electronic cigarettes, Martin McKee is most certainly not a "leading light"
This is how he is viewed by his peers, on e-cigs :

Hardly the words that describe a "leading light"

McKee's opening words are the just the start of what will become a torrent of errors

What concerns me is the way that the tobacco manufacturers have got in on the market.  They’ve suddenly realised that this is an opportunity for them and they’re really pushing them very hard, they’re taking over the small manufacturers who produced them early on

The tobacco industry has really done very well at promoting smoking by getting smoking into movies, for example, but by using e cigarettes they can get the images which look exactly like smoking into pop videos for kids

This is becoming a regular ploy of Martin McKee - in order to try and mask his complete lack of research and knowledge on the subject of electronic cigarettes, he will always try to refer to tobacco companies as often as possible.

I am going to come to the "pop videos for kids" a bit later on.

He doesn't understand the market - tobacco companies are not taking over the smaller e-cig companies, this is quite simply not happening, but because McKee hasn't done his homework, he doesn't know this.

Out of the hundreds of e-cig companies - 2 -just 2 - are owned by a tobacco company, and which 2 are these ? (no Martin, no clues - go and do your own homework) - these are 2 companies that specialise and sell "generation 1" electronic cigarettes.

E-cig market share - Dr Lynne Dawkins

So the only involvement of tobacco companies in the e-cig market is in the sector that has 18% of the market (and a minority of this sector, at that). The overwhelming majority, 82%, is completely untouched by tobacco companies.

He doesn't know what he is on about, does he ?

Knowing nothing about electronic cigarettes, his only option is to continue to ramble on about tobacco and cigarettes.

And when you’ve got bans on cigarette advertising you can put these things all over the place and most people looking at them from a distance will say – those are cigarettes

Really ?

From a distance ?

Really ?

You decide -

One of the largest billboard advertising campaigns from one of the leading brands in the sector (no Martin, this isn't one of the tobacco company brands) - but "from a distance".

Honestly, how many people are going to look at that and think to themselves that it is obviously an advert for Big T ?

Next up, in the face of a much more knowledgeable statement from Professor West (a genuine leading light), Martin McKee is forced to say that there is little or no gateway effect into smoking and seemed to panic at the thought of his only other argument crumbling into pieces so he goes on to say

And remember that the industry is producing these really targeted at kids – the flavourings that are in them – bubble-gum flavour – that’s not a flavour for adults is it?  So they’re clearly being pushed at children. 

Firstly, on the subject of certain flavours not being a "flavour for adults" - I work in an Off-Licence as part of my day job, and I see adults buy Gum, Candy, Chocolate and Sweets - each and every single day of the week - any listener who heard this statement would also know that he is talking rubbish and out of touch.

Secondly, one of the main features that electronic cigarettes have, the big advantage over smoking, is that people can choose any flavour they like. It is not hard to find over 100 different possible flavours for e-cigs, and yes, one of those would be bubblegum. Market Forces determine the flavours, Martin, nothing else. If a flavour sells then companies make more of it. If a flavour doesn't sell then companies make less of it - this is how it works, it is not very hard to understand.

The fact that bubblegum flavour is readily available - is proof that adults do like this flavour and this it is not just for children - the market forces, consumer demand proves this.

Later on, Martin McKee continues with his theme of "kids" with this gem
And I think if you look at pop videos – anyone might want to look at the latest Lily Allen video where e cigarettes are very prominent, that is clearly targeted at kids.

Remember earlier on, towards the start, McKee mentioned that tobacco companies were putting e-cigarettes into pop videos ? - well the brand featured in this video is not one of the tobacco company brands - So I would still like to see an example of a tobacco company brand in a pop video, this isn't it.

As for "clearly targeted at kids", you can view the official Lily Allen video here.

Targeted at kids ?

The part that has an image of an e-cig is at 2.30mins into the video and as the ecig is shown, the images that immediately follow are that of bikini clad dancers slapping their inner thighs and then slapping buttocks and pouring champagne over first their breasts and then their buttocks.

Accompanied by the words :
"forget your balls and grow a pair of tits, its hard out there for a bitch"

Now, I am not an advertising expert, but I think I am safe ground when I say that this is not an example of "targeted at kids"

Only an imbecile would look at those images and words and then say:
"clearly targeted at kids"

Martin McKee is clearly out of his depth on this subject, to the next time he speaks, he uses the old trick of returning to talk about the tobacco industry (not relevant, as previously discussed)

And if I can pick up on that I think we really need to get inside the mind of the tobacco industry here,

Again demonstrates his complete lack of research and knowledge

But if you want to buy an e cigarette refill you’re talking about £8 a go if you buy it off the internet.


because they’re really advertising cigarettes, they’re not actually advertising e-cigarettes.

Eh ?

...Before dropping his biggest clanger of the night

Well because in public health of course we endorse the precautionary principle.
The precautionary principle - if you regulate or restrict electronic cigarettes and/or their adverts, is there a risk that more people might smoke as a result ? - If the answer is either 'yes' or 'perhaps' or even 'just possibly' - then the precautionary principle would say that these restrictions should not be considered.

He even gets that wrong.



  1. Well said Matt - odd that McKee hasn't made any noises yet about the Nicorette inhalator tv spot which mimics smoking behavior. But then, Nicorette is a GSK product.

  2. Excellent post - It was totally unbalanced - none of them had a clue. Least they could have done was have someone who vaped on the show, or a vendor.

  3. Thank you - love your clarity of thought.

  4. I was always under the impression science was the pursuit of knowledge from facts?!

  5. I got my first electronic cigarrete kit at VaporFi, and I love it very much.