Today, on behalf of the Save E-cigs campaign, I was lucky enough to have a chat with one of the most vocal assembly members. If you didn’t know, Kirsty Williams AM, (Leader of the Welsh Lib Dems and Health Spokesperson) has been on the side of vapers ever since the proposals for banning vaping in “enclosed public spaces” came to light.
Rather than a meeting, this was more like a chat with a friend. I was the first appointment of the day and as Kirsty hadn’t had her coffee fix her assistant asked if she wanted a coffee and even asked if I wanted one. I gladly accepted tea to warm up my insides due the fridge-like temperatures outside. Once a bit of ice breaking chat was exchanged we got down to the nitty gritty of why I was there.
Instead of Kirsty asking the first question, I actually did. This was to find out her opinions on the Consultation Summary document 1 and it turns out that she hasn’t read it yet. This nicely led the discussion into full swing.
The main point of disappointment from my view point is that the Consultation “analysis” classified over half of the 412 responses as “not specified” due to them being a standard letter from Smokers Angel customers. This made me rather mad as each of these letters signed by individuals are still the opinion and should be counted. This came across in the answer figures from the questions, if these letters were considered as opposing the proposals; the change in weight of the answers would dramatically change. Kirsty completely agreed that this is a concern. It was like the opinion of voters just didn’t count and agreed that they were essentially ignored. She said that this will be brought up at the next possible moment.
We then went through more of the e-cig related consultation questions discussing Mark Drakeford’s flawed evidence. At this point her PA, said that they looked at some papers used by the vaping communities “favourite” scientist Mr Glantz. I then used the “kwik fit fitter” analogy or similar to describe most vapers opinion and they both laughed.
The conversation moved on about “gateway effects” to which the latest Office of National Statistics data2 on it came to the fore. Kirsty was not surprised with the data at all which is very positive for us. The ONS data will be used against Mark Drakeford.
Further conversation about “normalising smoking” was had and I offered information from presentations given at the E-cig Summit 2014 but without verbal context the slides were just slides. I then said that any useful presentation videos will be sent to her and she welcomed it.
More “evidence” in favour of the proposals was brought up by me including the private companies’ policies to ban the use of e-cigs. Kirsty thought it was rubbish. “When I am in a Wetherspoons I am subject to their own rules but it doesn’t mean they can tell me how to live my life. They can’t tell me what I can and can’t do” or words to that effect. This nicely led on to Mark Drakeford so-called “authoritative voice” the WHO. I went on to describe how the FCTC COP6 blocked out any media etc. but then related it to Deborah Arnott’s presentation at the summit which I will also send her just because it will confirm why vapers aren’t too keen on the WHO.
Finally, I directed the conversation towards how policy should be made which completely echoed Ian Gray and Hazel Cheeseman who did a presentation on policy making for work places at the E-cig Summit 2014. Kirsty and I agreed that this is how it should be done rather than national legislation. Again the videos of the presentation will be sent to Kirsty.
Lastly she asked what she and the Welsh Lib Dems could do for me and the Save E-cigs campaign. This next bit is the gold I mention in the title. As I knew she was on the Health & Social Care Committee, I asked if there was a way to have a face to face meeting with all the members which includes Kirsty, Darren Millar AM (Welsh Cons, who supports us), Elin Jones AM (Plaid Cymru, who Rob Heyes spoke with earlier this month) amongst others. She informed me that the HSC Committee will have their own consultation on the White Paper Bill. She then said that myself and my colleagues in the Save E-cigs campaign will be allowed to submit written and oral evidence to the Committee. There may even be the opportunity for the Committee to hear from independent experts as well. This is brilliant!
Finally, she insisted that we met with all AMs as we cannot assume that there is 100% agreement within each of the parties. This is why Save E-cigs and vapers like me are doing these meetings. Vapers across Wales can help us by meeting with their local AMs. By convincing AMs in face to face meetings we can build a majority in the Assembly to defeat these proposals. Come on vapers of Wales, do your bit!