The survey on electronic cigarettes went live in early January, and by February 1st we had received 573 replies, generating a stunning 1,300+ questions. This is apparently an off-the-scale response, demonstrating how important this issue is and how vital is the support that the James Lind Alliance can bring in determining what the highest priorities are.
Encouragingly, there are many replies from consumers as well as clinicians and the diversity among those submitting questions shows that we have got the communications well-pitched. We had hoped to keep it broadly within the UK but the nature of social media means that this went global very quickly and indeed we have had replies from all over the world.
I was asked to assist with categorising the questions into a first round of themes; what a fascinating task that was. Like the maiden in the Rumpelstiltskin story, I gasped at the size of the task before me. Putting all distractions aside though, I ploughed on and finally got to white space on the spreadsheet. What an amazing array of thoughts about what was important to know! Some had to be coded as out of scope: for example, some heated responses about hostile attitudes to vaping (understandable but not research questions), protests about the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations and some strong views about addiction. The most significant number of responses was in the section on long-term use, which is clearly an important issue for many, both consumers and clinicians alike. Other sections swelled as more and more questions were identified: flavours and their effects, impact on respiratory conditions, the effects of vaping on those with poor mental health, how can we educate people about vaping products, the environmental impact and why are some factions so hostile to vaping.
Often during the exercise, I wished I had the respondent beside me so we could discuss freely and I could explain what we already know or ask them to elaborate on what was a really good question.
Our next stage will be to summarise and refine these into a manageable list, which will then be put out for prioritisation. I can’t wait; I feel privileged to be part of this deeply involving process.
You can still have your say. The survey will remain open until 20th March 2019.
Louise Ross, Clinical Consultant, National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training.