I NOTE your report on the number of vaping shops ("Number of independent vape shops across UK increases post-pandemic", The Herald, January 3). That another 233 have opened in our high streets is not good news for parents worried about their children becoming addicted to nicotine through vapes. The UK now has 3,573 independent vaping shops.

The public should be aware that many so-called independent vaping shops are nothing of the kind, they are a front for Big Tobacco’s worldwide efforts to compensate for the millions of people who have quit smoking. Big Tobacco owns the majority of producers of e-cigs and vaping products.

According to the Local Data Company, vaping products saw a £897.4 million growth in sales in the last year. In Scotland alone 51,000 children under the age of 16 are now vaping. That potentially generates around £26.5m income for Big Tobacco.

In your report, UK Vaping Industry Association director general John Dunne says: "The independent vaping shops play an important role in advising smokers how best to make the switch to vapes and ultimately how to continue their journey to zero nicotine.” They claim to have helped 50,000 people a year to quit smoking but I have never seen any reliable evidence of that. Mr Dunne does not mention that hundreds of thousands of smokers, who have been conned into vaping to quit smoking, then find themselves even more addicted to nicotine.

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I do not believe that the independent vaping shop network can be trusted to support people on their journey out of nicotine addiction, for the simple reason that their only business is to sell as much nicotine as possible. I have visited independent vaping shops and been appalled at how mainly young and minimally-trained staff perpetuate the myth that “vaping is 95% safer than smoking”. They also are steering customers to products with stronger nicotine content.

Sadly, the 3,573 independent vaping shops are just a tiny fraction of shops selling vaping products, because our laws are so inadequate, literally anyone can sell vaping products without a licence. Vapes can now be bought in garages, supermarkets, corner shops, hairdressers, hardware shops, post offices, newsagents and corner shops.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.

Why legalised dying is a must

CATRIONA Stewart’s article ("Can our government be trusted on assisted dying?", The Herald, January 5), reflecting on her grandmother’s death, sensitively examines her feelings and refers to Liam McArthur’s Bill on Assisted Dying. My own views on the matter are not what they once were. They have been shaped by experience as a GP; by working in a palliative care service in Blantyre, Malawi; and conversations with over 600 families in Scotland, prior to conducting funerals for their loved ones.

From time immemorial doctors have looked upon the care of the dying as a duty and during my lifetime remarkable progress has been achieved. Despite that, many individuals continue to fear what the process will mean for them. This includes the loss of personal freedom, an inability to take part in activities which make life worthwhile and an irreparable loss of dignity. For some, the solutions to those problems lie beyond the power of others to deliver. Ultimately it is for an individual to decide if their suffering can no longer be endured.

The Herald: Liam McArthur promoting his Assisted Dying BillLiam McArthur promoting his Assisted Dying Bill (Image: PA)

Assisted dying should not be regarded as a means of circumventing inadequate end of life care. Rather than that bizarre position, all too often misrepresented by others, it should be looked upon as an adjunct to such care. Like all medical endeavours, palliative care has its limitations. It can never be all things to all women and all men. At present any intervention to hasten the death of someone who is suffering intolerably is illegal. As a consequence it must be clandestine and information on the scale of its use is incomplete. Despite this inhibition, it does occur. Unreported and unregulated assistance is currently carried out by some doctors to accelerate the dying process and it is disingenuous to ignore that reality.

However, over the years an unwelcome change in the behaviour of many doctors has taken place. Fears that self-righteous individuals may alert the regulatory authorities now intimidate compassion. A culture of blame and litigation have conspired to undermine what once was unexceptional. Put simply, for many people it has become harder to achieve an easy death. Should we continue to pretend this is not so? Must we go on turning a blind eye towards the forlorn, or failing that heartless rejection, point the wealthy towards the Swiss-Air departure lounge and a bleak premature death with Dignitas, far from home?

Ordinarily, the taking of one’s own life is a tragedy. When it results from mental illness or overwhelming emotional turmoil, how could it be otherwise? It is the few remaining cases which challenge our understanding, those carried out by individuals who have calmly decided to end their lives because of incurable illness and unbearable suffering. The intuitive response to that behaviour is to lump them in with the others. That conflation should be resisted. Although it cuts across the grain of our conditioning, some may be justifiable. There is a need to recognise such action can be appropriate, even if this runs contrary to our values. Showing tolerance towards the measured conduct of others, of which we do not approve, is the hallmark of a civilised people.

I began by acknowledging that my view on assisted dying has altered. In light of the evidence I have changed my mind. To paraphrase John Maynard Keynes, if the evidence changes we must all be willing to alter our attitude. The conclusion from an analysis of the evidence is unequivocal. Scotland should legalise assisted dying.

Bob Scott, Drymen.

THANKS to Catriona Stewart for her thoughtful article on assisted dying. Like her, I support such progressive, compassionate legislation. My concern, however, is if such legislation is passed in Scotland, what happens when Alister Jack pops up and says no.

Dr Kevin C Duff, Alloa.

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Negative slant

WHAT is interesting about the Post Office scandal ("Met invest­ig­ate ‘poten­tial fraud’ in Hori­zon scan­dal", January 7) is the apparent lack of compensating errors in the Fujitsu system. It seems that there were never any unexplained credit balances in PO accounts at the end of the day, only shortfalls. Accounting errors are both positive and negative. That in itself should have been questioned by the Post Office and by Fujitsu.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinross.