And you thought job interviews were tough! Meetings with politicians by Rhydian Mann.

Interview

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!

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“I resist things that feel wrong, that feel unethical and I have always been anti-anything which sounds like being unjust. Very often this meant being badmouthed as being anti-establishment.”

Hazel Mabe, vaping activist.

Hazel Mabe, vaping activist.

 

An interview with Hazel Mabe; vaper and activist from IG-ED (Interessengemeinschaft E-Dampfen e.V.), the first and largest German vaping association, and a member EVUN, a forum for all European vapers organisations and individuals to unite.

 

We were very lucky to have the chance to talk to Hazel Mabe, a lady that is a force to be reckoned with within the German vaping community. We caught up with her over Skype, and asked her not only how she got into vaping, but also how she became involved with IG-ED and EVUN, and found that protesting runs deep in her blood.

Hazel was, as she says ‘confronted with vaping’ by a friend of hers. In the German language, vaping can also mean ‘steaming with anger’ – so when Hazel’s friend posted a comment to say she was vaping, Hazel instantly thought she was angry and was having yet another fight with her husband!  But  thankfully not so.

It was this simple post that started Hazel’s vaping journey.

After plenty of Google searching Hazel well and truly got into vaping, and like many of us on this journey she’d smoked for 30 years and she’d smoked a lot – in the end it was 45 fags a day. She was finding it increasingly hard to walk upstairs without gasping for breath.

Starting off with a ‘ciggie like’ because that’s what she wanted, the entire concept of vaping appealed to her. It wasn’t only the fresh taste she enjoyed, but it tickled her sense of humour, as she liked nothing less than vaping where smoking was banned and then pop the ciggie like back into her pocket to the astonishment of onlookers!

 

But switching completely took its time; it wasn’t a case of zero cigarettes after the first vape. Hazel initially felt she would be happy with a 50% reduction in her smoking, as that was the best she had ever achieved with NRT. But after four days of vaping, she found herself having only smoked 10 of the usual 45 cigarettes, and it was then she became competitive with herself. If she made it through the day without a cigarette, she would (interestingly) “reward” herself with a cigarette just before going to sleep.

But by Xmas of 2010, roughly a month after starting her vaping journey, there were days when she was forgetting to smoke.

On the 2nd Jan 2011 Hazel had her last cigarette, as that ‘reward’ that night tasted disgusting.

3rd Jan 2011 was Hazels first smoke free day. She’s been smoke free ever since.

 

3 weeks after starting to vape she became involved with the German vaping forums, and gradually became more and more involved, finally becoming integrated into one of the two largest forums and becoming a moderator. As a dedicated DIY mixer, Hazel became briefly the ‘Queen of self-mixing’, helping new vapers to start mixing their own e juice, and that´s how a lot of people in the community became aware of who she was.

Asking her about this, and why she wanted to get involved in fighting the EU, Hazel quickly replied “it’s normal for me, I was a hippie in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I was a student that protested in the streets against Vietnam and the Shah of Persia, and against the government at the time, as it was bringing in emergency measures that would abolish many civil rights in Germany during a time of crisis.”

“I resist things that feel wrong, that feel unethical and I have always been anti-anything which sounds like being unjust. Very often this meant being badmouthed as being anti-establishment.”

Unfortunately due to a personal situation Hazel retired from the forums, but still wanted to continue to work for vapers, and it was suggested that she could help IG-ED.

What could she offer? Her major at University had been German language, so it evolved that IG-ED wrote the draft article they want to publish, and Hazel would just polish it up. She soon took on the role of international relations, as being an American German, (with a father that was half Native American Indian who had fought for his people), she had all the language skills required, and you can see where the protesting genes came from!

Hazel, and as a result German and EU vapers also had the added advantage that for years she had run her own PR company with her husband. From that experience Hazel learnt how people and companies manipulate the masses into believing this or that, “you mostly do it for commercial purposes but you can do it as well on a political scale, for law making, and now this experience comes in handy.”

She understood the political and regulatory game that was being played out with the TPD in the media and elsewhere.

 

 

Currently IG-ED are in a planning phase, as the German Government changed last year, unfortunately at the same time the TPD trilogue meetings were underway. German MP’s and administrative officials have moved jobs, ministries have merged, and of course there are now new people. At the moment IG-ED is busy identifying who their specialist contact persons in the new administration are, and are starting to plan a possible campaign for the members of Parliament.

At the same time, IG-ED are busy doing all they can to support the German EFVI collection of signatures. They started a project called “IG-ED on tour” which is designed to get out into the streets with a little mobile booth to inform the public about vaping in general, as well as about the EFVI initiative and about IG-ED’s work – and last but not least: to collect more supportive signatures, from passers-by who would lend them an ear.

IG-ED are also supporting German EFVI activists in establishing a German version of the British Dodo boxes – both by logistical means as well as topping the crowd funding efforts of the German EFVI activists, for financing the boxes by 10 per cent of the collected donations.

Within roughly 10 days, the community donated ~ 3,300 Euros, and IG-ED put their 10% on top resulting in enough money not only for having the boxes produced, but also for paying the postage, plus extra measures such as printing flyers, printing lists for collecting signatures and the likes.

 

And then there is EVUN, set up to help European vapers consumer organisations to co-ordinate what is going on in each country, to let each other know what’s happening, and to provide a stronger voice for vapers in Europe. Being a fantastic networker, the EVUN Facebook page can now boast 1’148 members from across the EU.

As Hazel says, “ We need to communicate with MEPs and the Eurocrats at eye level, not from a submissive position. After all, WE pay THEM!”

“I’m passionate about this. The EU are taking us all for a ride mostof the time, and people don’t realise it!”

“The EU does give us a few advantages, and people seem to only see those, we can’t allow the EU to lead us down a road of destruction. Working previously with very high-ranking Politicians I have no fear of the EU. Be as brilliant as Helmut Schmitd and then I might just respect you! At the moment the EU are M.B.A. – ‘mediocre but arrogant’ – especially the politicians that were involved in trilogue, they have no backbone!”

Talking of the upcoming European Parliament elections, Hazel feels that lots of vapers will vote for the alternative groups as they are fed up, but in Germany the alternative group has no idea about electronic cigarettes. “I wrote to them asking for their position towards the e-cigarette, but for them this is not an issue, they are too busy campaigning on leaving the Euro, claiming that the Euro makes slaves of us all. I can understand it from their point of view – it’s always the big bankers that pull the strings, of all the governments, and it’s Big Industry pulling the strings of MEPs and Committee members by lobbying them to a point where they forget who they should be obliged to and I would love to be one of those who remind them.”

And her final comment to end the interview? “See, I told you I was wayward.” And we are very grateful that she is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr Drakeford…

This is our letter to Mr Drakeford AM, Welsh Government Health Minister, after the announcement today that e cigarettes are to be banned in public places.

wales

 

Dear Mr Drakeford,

Welsh Government proposals to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places

Professor John Britton, of The Royal College of Physicians, said: “If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started using e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.”[1] It is therefore very disappointing that the Welsh Government is proposing a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces, substantially enclosed public places, and places of work in Wales.

This proposal is sadly typical of the thinking of those who appear hostile to e-cigarettes. They do not know very much about them and show very little interest in finding out more.

In your interview on the BBC Today Programme you stated that this proposal was made on the grounds that you believe nicotine to be a highly addictive and dangerous substance, that the use of e-cigarettes could re-normalise smoking, that they were targeted at young people, and that e-cigarettes could act as a gateway to smoking. When asked by the presenter what evidence you had for these concerns, you stated that you had none because e-cigarettes are still relatively new.

Robert West, Professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies at University College London’s department of epidemiology and public health recently said: “E-cigarettes are about as safe as you can get. We know about the health risks of nicotine. Nicotine is not what kills you when you smoke tobacco. E-cigarettes are probably about as safe as drinking coffee. All that they contain is water vapour, nicotine, and propylene glycol (which is used to help vaporise the liquid nicotine).”[2]

As you correctly stated, there is no evidence that e-cigarette use re-normalises smoking, particularly when you consider that according to research produced by the University of East London[3] 72 per cent of e-cigarette users use products that are as about as far removed from looking like conventional cigarettes as possible.

Whilst there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, there is evidence based research that shows they are not a gateway to smoking. Research, including a recent survey commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)[4], has shown time and time again that e-cigarettes are not attractive to young people, and are not used as a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Although awareness of e-cigarettes was widespread amongst young people aged 11 to 18, the ASH survey found no evidence that young people either used or perceived e-cigarettes as being a gateway to smoking.

Evidence produced by a variety of organisations including ASH and the American Cancer Society (ACS) clearly shows that flavours do not entice non-smokers to use e-cigarettes either, especially the young, as they have no interest in the product.

Researchers from the ACS[5] looked specifically into the enticement of flavours. They found that flavours did not increase the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to teenagers. Rather, “Even after controlling for other statistically significant correlates, the odds of a smoker being willing to try an e-cigarette were 10 times those of a non-smoker.”

Tobacco cigarettes are the gateway to tobacco smoking, not e-cigarettes.

Of course there must be a consideration of those who do not use e-cigarettes, but who would be impacted by second-hand vaping. However, research undertaken by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, M.D., Researcher, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, Athens Greece and Researcher, University Hospital Gathuisberg, Leuven, Belgium; and Professor Riccardo Polosa, Full Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Catania and

Scientific advisor for LIAF – Italian League for Anti-Smoking, has proven that there is no problem with passive vaping[6]. The research concluded, “Based on the existing evidence from environmental exposure and chemical analyses of vapor, it is safe to conclude that the effects of e-cigarette use on bystanders are minimal compared with conventional cigarettes.”

As you will be aware, this proposal does not have the support of the wider population. A recent poll by the BBC[7] found that 75 per cent of the public would be happy if their friends or family switched from smoking to using e-cigarettes, and 62 per cent of the public said that e-cigarettes should not be banned in public.

As a campaign representing the interests of e-cigarette users, their friends, and their families, we want to see e-cigarettes robustly regulated as the consumer products that they are. That is why we campaigned for a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18 and we publicly welcomed the decision of the Welsh Government to introduce such a ban. However, with a ban on the advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes soon to be introduced, following the passing of the Tobacco Products Directive, where are smokers to find out about e-cigarettes, particularly if they are banned in public places? Smokers need to see people using e-cigarettes in public, they need to be able to go up and speak to e-cigarette users so that they can find out further information and then hopefully make the switch to a safer alternative.

There are 10 million smokers in the UK and every year, according to the NHS, 114,000 people die from a tobacco related illness of which 5,450 of these deaths occur in Wales.[8]

Conventional nicotine replacement therapies are not tackling this number, but e-cigarettes could. Already 1.3 million smokers in the UK have either quit or cut down the amount they smoke by switching to e-cigarettes[9]. This should be a cause for celebration, not concern.

Sadly, far too many people who work in the public health sector and in the NHS seem more concerned with introducing counter-productive bans based on inaccurate or non-existent information than they are about staying focused on the bigger picture of seriously reducing the number of smoking related deaths.

Yours sincerely

Save  e cigs.

 

 

[1]The Independent Newspaper, 29 March 2013

[2] The Guardian Newspaper, 05 June 2013

[3] http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/staff/lynnedawkins/

[4] ASH surveyed 12,597 adults in 2010 – the questions focused on e-cigarette use and awareness in Great Britain. The preliminary survey was followed up by an additional study of adult smokers and non-smokers in February 2012 and more recently in 2013. ASH also surveyed children and young people aged 11 to 18 in March 2013.

[5] http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00409-0/fulltext

[6] Safety evaluation and risk assessment of electronic cigarettes as tobacco cigarette substitutes: a systematic review:

Konstantinos E. Farsalinos and Riccardo Polosa

published online 13 February 2014 Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24909648

[8] Public Health Wales Observatory (2012) – ‘Tobacco and health in Wales, 2012’ – available at http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/922/page/59800

[9] http://ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_715.pdf

Letter to the Editor

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.19.15

 

Our letter to the Editor, in response to this:http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-kids-smoking-e-cigarettes-school-6895830

Dear Sir,

Your recent article, ‘No smoke without fire! Kids are caught puffing on e-cigarettes in school’, stated that children across Liverpool were ‘puffing on e-cigarettes’, taking them to school, and that they were becoming a ‘prominent’ part of youth culture. These statements were based on a new report compiled by the Health Equalities Group (HEG) and the centre for public health at Liverpool John Moores University, entitled ‘Young People’s Perceptions and Experiences of Electronic Cigarettes’. The report concluded that ‘urgent action was needed to stop this new trend (using e-cigarettes) amongst young people’.

The impression given by the report and your article is that e-cigarettes manufactures are deliberately targeting children with advertising and flavours. These children, in large numbers, are taken in by this advertising and go on to become e-cigarette users and ultimately smokers. All this is allowed to happen, partly because, as Robert Ireland, Chief Executive of HEG said in your article, ‘e-cigarettes are not regulated’.

If true this would be deeply concerning. Thankfully though it is not true and it is therefore concerning that your newspaper chose to publish the statements of HEG and the conclusions of their report without subjecting them to any objective scrutiny.

Research, including a recent survey commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)[1], has shown time and time again that e-cigarettes are not attractive to young people, and are therefore not used as a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Although awareness of e-cigarettes was widespread amongst young people aged 11 to 18, the ASH survey found no evidence that young people either used or perceived e-cigarettes as being a gateway to smoking.

Evidence produced by a variety of organisations including ASH and the American Cancer Society (ACS) clearly shows that flavours do not entice non-smokers to use e-cigarettes either, especially the young, as they have no interest in the product.

Researchers from the ACS[2] looked specifically into the enticement of flavours. They found that flavours did not increase the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to teenagers. Rather, “Even after controlling for other statistically significant correlates, the odds of a smoker being willing to try an e-cigarette were 10 times those of a non-smoker.”

Tobacco cigarettes are the gateway to tobacco smoking, not e-cigarettes.

The HEG report even made this point in its conclusion which stated, ‘Overall seven out of eight young people had never accessed e-cigarettes’. You report also concluded that, ‘Despite widespread advertising of e-cigarette brands in print, visual and social media, the majority of participants reported that they had not seen any advertising for e-cigarettes and showed a lack of awareness of advertising and marketing strategies and approaches’. Yet somehow advertising is enticing young people to use e-cigarettes

As a campaign representing the interests of e-cigarette users, their friends, and their families, we want to see e-cigarettes robustly regulated as the consumer products that they are. However, it is not true to say that e-cigarettes are not regulated. At present there are 17 EU directives regulating them and further regulations will be introduced in 2016 as a result of the revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. In addition to this, as you reported, the Department of Health is introducing new rules restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18, something that we publicly welcomed.

It is vitally important that all those reporting on or writing about e-cigarettes do so responsibly. Irresponsible and alarmist reporting has the potential to put smokers off making the switch to a safer alternative. As a campaign we have no interest in articles promoting e-cigarettes uncritically either. All we are asking for is balanced and factual reporting.

Yours sincerely

Save  e-cigs.

 

[1] ASH surveyed 12,597 adults in 2010 – the questions focused on e-cigarette use and awareness in Great Britain. The preliminary survey was followed up by an additional study of adult smokers and non-smokers in February 2012 and more recently in 2013. ASH also surveyed children and young people aged 11 to 18 in March 2013.

[2] http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00409-0/fulltext

This is about choice.

Guest post from Louise Ross – aka @grannylouisa

No Smoking Day is always a busy time for stop smoking services across the country, because teams of frontline staff, in health, schools, colleges and local authorities, ask for our help. They put on events in their own workplaces that complement the work we do all year, aiming to support people who want to stop smoking. This all contributes to reducing the harm done by tobacco, especially in some of the poorest communities we serve.

This year, the Leicester Stop service was busier than ever, as we chose No Smoking Day to launch our new ‘brand’ as the first in the country to become an e-cig friendly service.

During the week, I did several media interviews, including local and regional radio, and for this piece in the Leicester Mercury.

http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/New-drive-cut-smoking/story-20802599-detail/story.html

This kind of publicity helps us communicate our new ‘offer’ to local smokers, that we are really keen to support them to stop smoking, whether they want to use licensed products or e-cigs.

One of the other really important communication routes though is the voice of the same frontline staff I referred to earlier – there is a huge hearts-and-minds job to be done with them where e-cigs are concerned, partly because of a massive information gap but also because of the misinformation that circulates via hostile media stories and from otherwise credible sources that claim to be speaking up for the health of the nation.

One such group, which I won’t identify here, asked me for help to do a series of talks about the dangers of e-cigs. They said they didn’t want to dwell on the dangers of smoking, just to raise people’s awareness about how harmful e-cigs are. Once I’d deleted my first response, I re-wrote my reply offering an urgent meeting to provide an up-to-date picture of how important these devices could be for reducing smoking rates among their service users, where whole families of smokers could be introduced to harm reduction through vaping.

I also emphasise, when talking to these audiences, that this is about choice. We still offer all the licensed products that are available, but we now have the options to work with people who want to use their own e-cigs. We can’t supply these, but our E-cig Insight Scheme allows us to give a voucher as a thank-you to those who stop smoking using e-cigs, if they promise to participate in our evaluation at 6 and 12 months.

The other aspect of this that has kept me busy has been the enquiries from other stop smoking service managers who can see the potential of going down this route, and want to know how we set it up.

It’s early days yet, but I hope that by No Smoking Day 2015, many more stop smoking services will be offering a similar package. This could be another step towards truly making smoking history.

Letter to The Scotsman Newspaper

The Scotsman

 

Dear Sir,

I am writing in response to your recent article, ‘Call for ban on e-cigarettes in public places’ As a campaign that has the interests of e-cigarette users at heart, we are concerned that your journalist reproduced the comments of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland and Public Health Minister Michael Matheson MSP, without subjecting them to any scrutiny, if she had, she would have found them wanting.

In the article BMA Scotland made a number of statements that we unchallenged:

  • Increasing numbers of children use e-cigarettes,
  • E-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes, and
  • E-cigarettes help normalise smoking.

Where to begin?

Research, including a recent survey commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)[1], has shown time and time again that e-cigarettes are not attractive to young people, and are therefore not used as a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes.  Although awareness of e-cigarettes was widespread amongst young people aged 11 to 18, the ASH survey found no evidence that young people either used or perceived e-cigarettes as being a gateway to smoking.

Evidence produced by a variety of organisations including ASH and the American Cancer Society (ACS) clearly shows that flavours do not entice non-smokers to use e-cigarettes either, especially the young, as they have no interest in the product.

Researchers from the ACS[2] looked specifically into the enticement of flavours.  They found that flavours did not increase the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to teenagers. Rather, “Even after controlling for other statistically significant correlates, the odds of a smoker being willing to try an e-cigarette were 10 times those of a non-smoker.”

Tobacco cigarettes are the gateway to tobacco smoking, not e-cigarettes.  Also, there is no evidence what so ever that e-cigarettes help ‘normalise smoking’.

The article goes on to report a motion being debated at the BMA Scotland conference welcoming moves by the MHRA to regulate e-cigarettes as a medicine.  Again, had your journalist carried out any independent research, she would have discovered that this is not actually what the MHRA intends to do.

On the 12th of June 2013 the MHRA stated that they wished to regulate ‘nicotine containing products’ (e-cigarettes) in line with the proposed EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which at that time supported the medicinal regulation of all e-cigarettes.

However, on the 8th of October 2013 MEPs voted against the medicinal regulation of e-cigarettes, a move that was later supported by the Member States in Council.  Since then the MHRA is on record as stating that it no longer proposes to introduce the blanket medicinal regulation of e-cigarettes.  The TPD, passed in Strasbourg two weeks ago, proposes medicinal regulation only for those products which seek to make a medicinal claim or those products with a nicotine strength greater than 20 ml.

We welcome the aspect of the BMA Scotland’s motion that calls on the Scottish Government to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18s, and have been calling on the Scottish Government to do this ourselves.  However, it is ludicrous to propose that e-cigarettes should be sold only alongside nicotine replacement therapies (NRT).  E-cigarettes are not some form of more effective NRT; they are a viable alternative to conventional tobacco cigarettes and should be on sale anywhere tobacco cigarettes are sold.

Finally, on the idea that e-cigarette use should be banned in public.  E-cigarettes are not just popular with those who use them; there is widespread support for them amongst the public at large.  A recent poll by the BBC[3] found that 75 per cent of the public would be happy if their friends or family switched from smoking tobacco cigarettes to using e-cigarettes, and 62 per cent of the public said that e-cigarettes should not be banned in public.

With a ban on the advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes soon to be introduced, following the passing of the TPD, where are smokers to find out about e-cigarettes, particularly if they are banned in public places?  Smokers need to see people using e-cigarettes in public, they need to be able to go up and speak to e-cigarette users so that they can find out further information and then hopefully make the switch.

Of course there must be a consideration of those who do not use e-cigarettes, but who would be impacted by second-hand vaping.  However, highly credible research undertaken by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, M.D., Researcher, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, Athens Greece and Researcher, University Hospital Gathuisberg, Leuven, Belgium; and Professor Riccardo Polosa, Full Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Catania and Scientific advisor for LIAF – Italian League for Anti-Smoking, has proven that there is no problem with passive vaping[4].  The research concluded, “Based on the existing evidence from environmental exposure and chemical analyses of vapor, it is safe to conclude that the effects of EC use on bystanders are minimal compared with conventional cigarettes.”

All those with a genuine interest in public health need to stay focussed on the bigger picture – significantly reducing the number of people who die from tobacco related illnesses.  Conventional nicotine replacement therapies are not tackling this in any significant number, but e-cigarettes could.  Already 1.3 million smokers have switched to e-cigarettes throughout the UK.

It is vitally important that all those reporting on or writing about e-cigarettes do so responsibly.  Irresponsible reporting has the potential to put smokers off making the switch to a safer alternative.  We are a campaign representing e-cigarette users; we have no interest in articles promoting e-cigarettes uncritically either.  All we are asking for is balanced and factual reporting.

Yours sincerely

 

Save E cigs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] ASH surveyed 12,597 adults in 2010 – the questions focused on e-cigarette use and awareness in Great Britain. The preliminary survey was followed up by an additional study of adult smokers and non-smokers in February 2012 and more recently in 2013. ASH also surveyed children and young people aged 11 to 18 in March 2013.

[4] Safety evaluation and risk assessment of electronic cigarettes as tobacco cigarette substitutes: a systematic review:

Konstantinos E. Farsalinos and Riccardo Polosa

published online 13 February 2014 Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety

 

Is it too much to hope that by National No Smoking Day next year, policy makers and public health campaigners will have realised the amazing potential of e-cigarettes?

So today is National No Smoking Day – a day dedicated to encouraging people to make an extra special effort to give up smoking tobacco cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.

There are 10 million smokers in the UK[1] and each and every year, according to figures produced by the NHS, 114,000 people die from a tobacco related illness[2].  Policy makers and health campaigners need to focus on reducing this number.  Conventional nicotine replacement therapies (NRT), with their failure rate of over 90 per cent, are not tackling this number, but e-cigarettes could.  Already 1.3 million people in the UK have either quit or cut down the amount they smoke by switching to e-cigarettes[3].

E-cigarettes represent a market-based, user-driven public health insurgency.  No public money has been spent, yet smokers are switching, and cutting down through using e-cigarettes.  A staggering 40,625 smokers are switching to e-cigarettes every month in the UK alone[4].  This should be a cause for celebration, not concern.  E-cigarette sales now outstrip those of NRT products[5].

As Professor John Britton from The Royal College of Physicians said, “If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started using e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today.  It’s a massive potential public health prize.”[6]

Not our words, the words of Professor John Britton.  So e-cigarettes are pretty amazing.  It was therefore surprising to see that there is not one single mention of them on the official No Smoking Day website.  The website goes into great detail about Stop Smoking services run by the NHS and encourages the use of NRT products, but no mention of the one product that offers smokers a viable alternative to tobacco cigarettes, and an alternative that is several magnitudes safer.

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Professor Robert West, Professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies, at University College London, said, “We have such a massive opportunity here.  It would be a shame to let it slip away by being overly cautious.  E-cigarettes are about as safe as you can get.  We know about the health risks of nicotine.  Nicotine is not what kills you when you smoke tobacco.  E-cigarettes are probably about as safe as drinking coffee.  All they contain is water vapour, nicotine, and propylene glycol (which is used to help vaporise the liquid nicotine).”[1]

Whilst recognising the benefits of e-cigarettes some policy makers and health campaigners still have a number of concerns about them.  Some believe that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes.  Others worry that the wide variety of flavours makes them attractive to younger people who have previously never smoked.

These concerns, however, have been proven time and time again to have no foundation.  Whilst these people focus all their efforts worrying about these mythical concerns and continue to promote services and products with a negligible success rate, they take their eye off the big picture – significantly reducing the number of people who smoke.

As Professor Gerry Stimson said, “We are only making small progress in further reducing the prevalence of cigarette smoking – encouraging current smokers to switch to e-cigarettes has the potential to speed up the process with consequent major public health gains.”[2]

Is it too much to hope that by National No Smoking Day next year, policy makers and public health campaigners will have realised the amazing potential of e-cigarettes?  Is it too much to hope that these people will stop pretending e-cigarettes do not exist or that they are somehow “dangerous”?  Is it too much to hope that these people will engage constructively with vapers and try and understand that for the vast majority of smokers NRT just does not work?  Perhaps it is, but on this National No Smoking Day, this campaign’s message to policy makers and public health campaigners is this: This is a crucial moment, a narrow window of opportunity.  If wisely regulated, e-cigarettes can make tobacco cigarettes obsolete.  The stakes are high, and we need to play it right.  Please, please, please do not blow it by focussing all your energies on concerns that have no foundation.

 

 

[1] The Guardian newspaper 05 June 2013

[2] Open letter to ENVI Committee members form Professor Gerry Stimson 22 April 2013