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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 9 February 2018

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Dear everyone,

E-cigarettes are controversial but with nearly three million people using them, sitting on the fence on this was never an option. The key thing is to compare the harm of an e-cigarette with smoking tobacco rather than comparing an e-cigarette with fresh air. Our evidence review in 2015 of the risks and opportunities of e-cigarettes set the world alight with opinion, supportive and otherwise. Since then the consensus has been building with a recognition that e-cigarettes have a place in helping in our ambition to have a smoke free generation, with strong support from the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians, ASH and many others. This is public health at work, making the best judgement of imperfect evidence with even the most ardent opponents agreeing that for a smoker, an e-cigarette is safer than tobacco. They are not though without risks, and this week we published our latest e-cigarette evidence update. There is a need for more longitudinal studies on the effect of inhaling vapour directly into the lungs and the flavourings and we must make sure these products never become a gateway into smoking for the young. We know that e-cigarettes are contributing to at least 20,000 successful quit attempts a year and with this in mind we must also tackle the misconception that they are as harmful as smoking, a belief held by a quarter of those who smoke. For further information do read our blog and watch our animation below.

The police calculate that nearly 80% of everything they face is social in nature, such as adverse childhood experiences, poverty, social exclusion and addiction. These are all of course factors that also lead to poor health and increase the likelihood of a person being involved in crime. This week we published a landscape review on the common ground between policing and public health, providing a comprehensive picture of the ways we are working together across England to best achieve positive change. You can learn more here.

Ten years after the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) was first offered to adolescent girls in the UK, most women under the age of 25 are now vaccinated. Data from the UK and other vaccinated populations has shown a reduction in infections with HPV in women and a drop in referral rates for abnormal smear tests. Those countries with high HPV vaccine coverage in girls have also shown that the vaccine is providing indirect protection to men. However men who have sex with men (MSM) are unlikely to benefit from this indirect protection and this week Ministers announced that, following a successful PHE pilot, from April,  an HPV vaccination programme will be rolled out for MSM attending sexual health and HIV clinics in England. In the coming years we expect to see a decline in HPV-related cancers, yet again showing that vaccination is second only to clean water in saving and preserving lives.

Yesterday we hosted the fifth annual cardiovascular disease prevention conference in London. A main focus of the event was on the world leading NHS Health Check. Twelve million eligible people have been invited to have a Check since 2013, and 6 million have taken up the offer. A key theme throughout the day was looking at what can be done to reduce variation in offers made and the uptake of these, and importantly follow-up. I have written to every upper tier Local Authority Chief Executive to congratulate those commissioning and locally delivering the programme, and to encourage them to check how well their local programme is performing and to take the necessary steps to optimise its impact.

On Tuesday I was in Birmingham for the PHE Quality improvement, innovation and excellence awards. This event and the entries showcased the true excellence of our work and our congratulations go to the two overall winners – Simon Walker and Alison Hadley for their production of a resource for local authorities to tackle teenage pregnancy and Kevin Carroll, Lisa Harvey-Vince, Sooria Balesegaram and Claire Jenkins for their work on a collaborative approach to address Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli.

And finally, I will be on half-term with my family next week and the next Friday message will be on 23 February.

Best wishes,




Friday messages from 2012-2017 are available on GOV.UK

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