The BMJ Today: Cigarettes and alcohol

“My earliest ambition was to be an engineer, because someone told me girls couldn’t be engineers,” says Glasgow based GP Margaret McCartney in BMJ Confidential.

It’s this tenacious attitude that has characterised Margaret’s career, from her day to day work as a GP in Glasgow, to her tireless defence of the ethics and values of the NHS, and evidence based medicine. She doesn’t like public relations companies and isn’t afraid to say so.

Her voice has not only been heard, but listened to as she was recently elected to the national council of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Before anyone else could snap her up The BMJ invited her to become a regular columnist, which she will be starting in April.

As if that wasn’t enough to do Margaret still manages to sing in a choir (29 March 2014, Wellington Church, Glasgow, to be precise), and have a gin and topic at 6pm on a Friday evening. But she can’t have more than one because then, she says, “I’m half asleep, dropping stitches in my knitting. It’s all glamour!”

Someone else with strong views who isn’t afraid to share them is Simon Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney. In the second of his BMJ blogs on e-cigarettes, he takes the claims of “vapers” (dedicated enthusiasts of electronic cigarettes) to task. He asks “Will vapers really ‘quit and (not) die?'”

In terms of quit rates he summarises evidence from four clinical trials and three population based studies. Overall “a picture emerges of e-cigarettes being anything from a factor that might reduce quit rates, to one that produces a modest improvement in quitting over doing nothing more than deciding to quit.”

He is equally sceptical about whether mortality is reduced in people who cut down their cigarette intake by using e-cigarettes. Overall, he says, most vapers don’t quit cigarettes and many will die prematurely from diseases caused by smoking.

For more on smoking see

Giselle Jones is specialist reviews editor, BMJ