Introducing the European Free Vaping Initiative, and what you can do to help.
You might say that you signed 10+ petitions, so why bother? Well, EFVI is not a petition, but an official European Citizens’ Initiative. While similar to petitions in many aspects it also has some unique features that makes this tool more powerful than regular petitions you’ve seen so far. Well, in theory, at least, its success depends greatly on the participation of European citizens, you included.
So what is an ECI? Clever folks in the EU found out that citizens’ participation in European lawmaking is practically nonexistent and that a common citizen has no say in the direction of EU legislative procedures. This has probably never been more true than these days, with all the hassle with the Tobacco Products Directive and its dreaded Article 18. To address this problem the EU developed a framework that enables at least 1.000.000 European citizens with a common goal to invite the European Commission to make a legislative proposal. In fact we can create our very own legislative proposal and invite the Commission to act on it. So, as you can see an ECI is several magnitudes more serious than a regular petition, an opportunity that can be a game-changer if used well. Sure, the framework is a bit clumsy, but it enables us to break the silence and bring our opinion right to the doorstep of the Commission, ring the doorbell and say: hey, you’ve ignored us, but here we are, so you have to hear us out.
That’s right, we, the vapers, have been ignored in many ways. For years we’ve been left alone in peace, vaping flourished and evolved, and now politics kicks the door on us and wants to save us from ourselves like we were a bunch of reckless children. The people behind this has been proving meticulously for years that they have no clue about electronic cigarettes, and their conclusion: they are fit to decide the fate of vaping in Europe. It is almost funny, except that it is sad and seriously wrong. What’s next? Speed limit on kids’ bikes for it’s a gateway to reckless driving? Come on, EC and Council of Ministers, make some sense.
There are plenty of arguments against the regulation out there, be it a legal, a scientific or a public health one, or simply just common sense. EFVI’s approach is slightly different: if they regulate electronic cigarettes to the borders of uselessness and beyond, then they violate our rights. Our right for freedom of choice, our right for life, our right for health. And the way they are doing it, without assessing the impacts, without consulting with the masses involved, purposely overlooking legal problems, ignoring and bending scientific evidences, this is a shame and an outrage. For me, it is not Europe at all, but a bad joke, and I think I am not alone with this opinion.
But enough of the sad history, let’s talk about a brighter future. EFVI is here, the engines are humming and we need to collect one million signatures of support before the 25th of November 2014. When we succeed we will have the opportunity to present our issue to the representatives of the European Commission, and we will attend a public hearing in the European Parliament. It is important to note, that whatever happens until then, even if the TPD passes as it is, EFVI has the chance to turn things upside down. The support of one million European citizens is not something that national and European politicians might easily dare to overlook.
Our ultimate goal is to present a solid and sane legislative proposal for electronic cigarettes. A proposal to be discussed with the key people currently fighting against the ban, with the consumer associations, and with the vendor associations if they are interested (certainly not TVECA and its cronies). Right now we have nothing tangible as the TPD is still a moving target that tends to change every month, but we will come up with a draft by September so we will have two months to properly discuss and fine-tune its content before EFVI concludes. This is the reason why the goals outlined in our manifesto are kept being general, to be able to stay current, no matter what happens in the European Commission in the meantime and how awry things go month after month.
To succeed we will need your support, and the support of our friends and families. If I were Santa Claus I’d fly around and collect one million signatures overnight, but unfortunately I am not the good old lad with the white beard. The weight of EFVI’s success lies on the shoulders of each and every European vaper. We’ve collected a wee bit more than 19.000 signatures so far, and if this tendency remains, it will be hard to reach the quota. We do have a very strong support in France and Germany, with Finland, Hungary, Italy and Poland and the UK keeping up nicely (sorry if I left out an active member state, send us success stories!). Studies say that a successful ECI campaign needs to spend about one euro on each signature, but we would like to see EFVI succeed without funding involved, we strongly believe that the vaping community can turn the tide with its enthusiasm.
It is also important to mention that EFVI is not an organization, we are regular vapers just like you, working in our spare time to protect the future of vaping in the European Union in any way we can. Think of EFVI as a nerve center that provides materials and ideas for the vapers around Europe to help raising awareness and to motivate fellow vapers. It is us, the vapers after all, who can make EFVI and the idea of free vaping succeed.
So, what can you do to help?
First, sign the initiative if you haven’t done so already. We know, the signature form asks for a lot of personal information and some of you are genuinely concerned about giving these away. What you have to enter is defined by the member states themselves in order to be able to verify the validity of the signatures once signature collection is over, and in this case a nickname and an e-mail address is no longer sufficient to support the cause. You will find links to the privacy statement, to our security certificate and to a lengthy description of data protection below. And seriously, what are we supposed to do with a British vaper’s address or with the name of a Greek vaper’s father? So please put your healthy paranoia aside and start to save vaping while it is not too late. If you are afraid of authorities making a list of vapers, think about how many surveillance cameras record you vaping on an average day.
You don’t have to be a vaper to participate. Spread the word. EFVI is present on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, follow us and keep an eye on the latest developments, you can find the links on our website. Ask your family, friends and colleagues to support the cause.
If you have a national association, please make them aware of EFVI, vaper associations can reach a lot of people. Most of the associations are already involved, but there might be some still unaware of the initiative.
If you own a store, please notify your customers about EFVI. Stores have an even longer reach when it comes to vapers, there are a lot of people living their lives without tracking dire news or being involved in the vaping community. We are actively contacting the stores around Europe, but every assistance is much appreciated. We’ve prepared a sample letter for shops that can be used as a basis to inform customers about the initiative.(http://www.efvi.eu/letters/)
If you are a blogger or reviewer, please make a post about the initiative. We will contact you in the near future anyway, but you don’t have to wait for us, feel free to use the sample letter we mentioned above. There are also badges that can be used on your websites as well. (http://www.efvi.eu/#helping)
If you have friends in the media, please tell them about the initiative. Right now 19.000 signatures might not be a big deal for the press, but there shall be a few impartial journalists out there who might be interested in the initiative nevertheless.
If you have national associations defending civil rights it’s worth a try to contact them as well. We are fighting for our rights here.
If our website is not yet available in your language you can help by translating it. All of our translations have been provided by the members of the vaping community.
If you have spare time: many volunteers plan to collect signatures on the streets once the weather allows it. We encourage everyone to do so, please contact us so we can tell you how to do it properly.
If you would like to step up as a liaison between EFVI and vapers in your country, whether it is an association or an active community, or if you want to get involved in any way, we welcome you, please drop us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In case you have further ideas, please feel free to make suggestions. Send us a message via Facebook, Google+, Twitter or e-mail, we’d love to hear from you.
Thank you for reading this wall of text. Now come on, let’s save vaping in Europe together!
p.s.: please excuse my English, it’s not my native tongue.
p.p.s.: I would like to thank the wonderful members of the vaping community, the people at EVUN, the members of our citizens’ committee, and countless others for all the help and support they provide.
The initiative: http://www.efvi.eu/
Our signature collection system provided by the EC: https://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/REQ-ECI-2013-000024/public/
An introduction to ECIs: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/files/guide-eci-en.pdf
A lot of information on ECIs: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/
Our certificate of conformity (regarding regulations): https://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/REQ-ECI-2013-000024/public/certificate.do
Privacy statement of the signature collection system: https://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/REQ-ECI-2013-000024/public/privacy.do
Details on data protection in general: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/data-protect