On Weds 22nd Oct I met Antoinette Sandbach for the Save e-cigs campaign. Antoinette is a Welsh Conservative Assembly Member representing North Wales . She has a rather positive voting history if applied to vaping and she comes across as being on our side, and she mentioned that she has always voted against any regulation proposals.
Normally I am rather prepared for discussions with people regarding e-cigs, but this time dealing with a politician was a completely new and somewhat daunting event to prepare for, especially around my normal day job.
So what did I have to contend with?
After the introductions, I asked Antoinette what she wanted to know in order to judge her knowledge of ecigs rather than bursting into why are ecigs are amazing, healthier etc. Turns out she wanted a general background to start off with, however she also mentioned that ecigs are not medically tested. This is a situation I am always prepared for, I always carry with me a 1st gen ciggalike, a general gen 2 device and then there is my gen 3 device which I all placed on her desk. I gave a brief description of what each device was and the difference between them in terms of performance.
She then threw me off a bit by asking “what information is there to say that one is actually better than the other?” That’s something I will have to actually get into my head, however I told her that from personal experience I can say that gen 1 is not as good as the other generations. (Throw off semi averted).
Antoinette then expressed concerns about product safety which fell into 2 separate areas; e-liquid and hardware, especially batteries after recent stories in the media. She also felt that there was a lack of information regarding the actual amount of nicotine being inhaled by the users and a general lack of information about the products.
Let’s start with the batteries. Instead of unleashing the “people are stupid and use wrong chargers” approach, which could have been rather easy for me, I went on to state that all reputable vendors show exactly how to set up devices properly and how to charge them properly. I emphasised that reputable vendors give all necessary advice and kits include instructions.
Antoinette accepted this but still enquired that the products are unregulated. This is completely not true as us vapers know. For starters e-cigs have to meet 17 (forgive me if this incorrect) EU consumer products regulations including getting certification as electrical products which are the CE and RoHS markings on devices and batteries or their packaging. I went to say that ECITA are testing batteries to purposefully make them go beyond normal working parameters. So far the information from ECITA made available via their blog has shown that no batteries are able to “explode” on their own. So all these “explosions” are a result of user error.
Then onto e-liquid safety. Antoinette said that “there is no way of knowing how much nicotine a user inhales compared to a pack of cigarettes, which has the nicotine content labelled”. This is an open door I didn’t exactly barge through at the time. I should have gone down the route of “actually tobacco pack labelling is wrong, cigarettes have up to 50mg or more according to Dr F” which my mind wanted me to say but I actually replied “tobacco smokers don’t know either, they don’t smoke an entire one in one breath” Maybe not the best I could have been. I then gave her a fully labelled bottle of e-liquid to have a look at. She seemed shocked by the safety phrases on the bottle. Especially “fatal if swallowed” and “fatal in contact with skin”. I then clarified that this label was from before the poison reclassification of e-liquid nicotine to the same level as washing up liquid. I then stated that the 10ml bottle had a concentration of 6mg/ml and has no more than 60mg in it and would cause nothing worse than vomiting if swallowed. She questioned “how would the nicotine concentration be true against the label?” or words similar. My answer was testing, as reputable e liquid companies and ECITA members get their liquids tested.
After much to-ing and fro-ing about quality, testing and even the TPD got thrown in to put some aspects of the conversation into some perspective, Antoinette dropped the question I half expected to get but always treat with some trepidation. That question being…
“Would you want to see regulation of electronic cigarettes?”
I gave my personal opinion and emphasised that it was. Of course I want regulation which can mean safer hardware and good quality e-liquids but not so much regulation that the market is crippled and user are not able to get products that satisfy them.
I was actually running out of steam, pardon the pun, with almost 30mins of discussion passed. Then mentioning the Welsh Government proposals brought out some rather good advice from Antoinette. She said that the best way to get the minds changing on the proposals is to get meetings with members of the health committee and get as many face to face meetings with constituency AMs as possible.
That is very good advice indeed from Antoinette. This is something that all Welsh vapers should do. If you are able, arrange a meeting with your local AM, the vaping community have a voice and it should be heard.
But what did I personally get out of this meeting?
1 – never go into a meeting politician with a pre-determined idea of what will be discussed.
2 – always have a good understanding of the science that we have on our side
3 – never be daunted, a politician is just a person and a consumer at the end of the day.
4 – don’t over complicate the topic, it can lead both of you into confusion.
5 – always hold back your first reaction to any questions.
Editors note : A big thanks to Rhydian for not only attending this meeting on behalf of Save e cigs, but for also writing this excellent post!