Save e-cigs – a year in review.

2014, a year to remember.

Here are just a few of the things that happened:

Writing letters

We wrote hundreds of letters. At times it felt as if we were writing letters almost every day, but I know that’s not strictly true. We did though write copious letters to the press each and every time we saw an article that was misinforming the public re e-cigarettes. As the year progressed it was encouraging to see these letters being published, with some even being turned into articles! It does seem to have helped, as it is now gratifying to see the reporting of battery issues changing to be reported as the wrong charger/battery etc. instead of the screaming ‘e-cig explodes!’ headlines.

Fighting vaping bans

We saw plenty of e-cig bans creep in over the year, the Commonwealth Games being one of the more prominent ones. We fought hard to prevent any that we saw. The Welsh Government is still very keen to impose a vaping ban in public places. We have been writing letters, sending briefings, speaking with the media, having articles published in the press, organising petitions, and meeting with as many Assembly Members that will see us. The highlight of our campaign against this proposed ban had to be the delivery of our petition to the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee. It was great to see so many Assembly Members turn out to either support us or to simply hear our arguments. Next week we will meet with senior officials at the Welsh Department of Health. These meetings are changing minds and winning us fresh support. We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to the team of Welsh vapers who have collected petition signatures and attended meetings with AMs. Thank you for all you have done!

In 2015 we will continue the fight against vaping bans and are already very busy in Scotland!

Politician of the week

We started a politician of the week to highlight those politicians that have come out in support of vaping/vapers, and to say thank you to them. We had several politicians write blog posts for us, and we were very thankful to Martin Callanan for all his efforts and information during the last weeks of the TPD, when it all changed rather drastically and we saw Trilogue discussions taking place behind closed doors, split and separate votes and the commission getting what they wanted, not what the MEPs voted through.

In the European elections in May a number of our strongest supporters in the European Parliament either stood down or lost their seats. We were particularly sorry to see Chris Davies and Martin Callanan lose their seats. However, Martin was recently ennobled and now sits in the House of Lords as Lord Callanan of Low Fell. Already he is standing up for vapers and vaping in Westminster and was the main speaker at the recent launch of the e-cigarette APPG.

Media

2014 also saw crazy crazy news reporting confusing the hell out of most of us, and, the sad result is that now many people believe the scare stories about e-cigarettes. But, we will continue to inform and educate and can only hope that 2015 will see a wind change as the facts now far outweigh the fear.

Guest posts

There were guest posts from Scientists, from commentators, MPs, interviews with advocates and Industry, we tried to keep a broad stance and garner all opinions and views. We were lucky enough to go to Warsaw and see first hand the incredible work that is being done by many passionate advocates of e-cigarettes, and it was a breath of fresh air to be there, among people that understand e-cigarettes and how they change lives for the better.

The WHO

The WHO report was a low point, and I could write reams about the funding of that organisation, the failures they have incurred, but I won’t. Instead I will just say that the truth will out, and then the WHO will have to change its stance. They did a lot of damage, but we are very grateful to the scientists and advocates that wrote letters and published their opposition to the WHO in the press.

Faculty of Public Health

Another low point was the Faculty of Public Health’s shenanigans on twitter. That was very disturbing to see, and yet more disturbing the whitewash of an apology and then Public Health trying to state they were the victims!

I can certainly say that working for Save e–cigs has been a huge eye opener and sometimes what we see is not that pleasant.

Totally Wicked Legal Challenge.

A higher point was the Totally Wicked court case. They have been granted permission by the UK court to challenge article 20 of the TPD. They will have their day in the EU Courts of Justice later on this year – and I know we all wish them the best of luck.

And what of the year to come?

Already more letters and more briefings have been written and sent. We will continue to lobby for the proposed vaping ban in Wales to be dropped, we will be working with vapers on Scotland as they now face the same the hurdles as Wales, and we will keep on keeping on.

But wouldn’t it be lovely – as a new years wish – that Save e-cigs won’t be needed by the end of the year because the regulators will have a road to Damascus realisation that e-cigarettes are a force for the better, regulate them as such, and then we can all get back to living our lives, vaping, relaxing and not worrying that our e-cigs are going to be taken from us!

That’s certainly my wish for 2015. Happy New Year everyone.

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Faculty of Public Health and their ‘apology’.

A while back we wrote to the Faculty of Public Health regarding the behaviour of their President John Ashton and his abuse towards vapers on twitter.

This is the letter we sent: https://saveecigs.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/letter-to-professor-ashton/

Below is the reply we had back. Once you have read it, you will understand why we felt it necessary to respond.

Dear Save e-cigs,

Thank you for writing to FPH regarding your concerns about our President, Professor John Ashton. I have investigated the issues raised in your complaint and am writing to advise of the outcome.

FPH agrees that Professor John Ashton’s use of language on Twitter on Saturday September 6 was inappropriate and offensive. Both Professor Ashton and FPH apologise unreservedly for the comments he made.

In investigating your complaint, I have worked closely with FPH’s Board to ensure a thorough process has been followed. FPH’s Board has discussed the matter at great length, given the nature and seriousness of the situation.

The Board has registered its strong disapproval of Professor Ashton’s comments, whilst noting the mitigating circumstances. The Board also agrees that Professor Ashton should continue in his role as President and has given clear direction on the necessary steps to support his return.

You refer to Professor Ashton’s interview on the Jeremy Vine show on Friday 5 September. FPH’s position on e-cigarettes was not as clearly articulated as it might have been, nor was the possible link between nicotine and blindness fully explained. However, I believe that it would be wrong to try and stifle scientific debate or exclude passion from argument. If you would like to read our position, it is available at: http://bit.ly/1p2zEq7 We keep our position under review, considering latest developments and emerging evidence.

When it comes to engaging with the public, we usually do this through our members, as well as partnership work with stakeholders such as other charities and representative bodies.
I would like to personally reassure you that Professor Ashton’s tweets do not in any way represent what FPH thinks about people who use e-cigarettes. Regardless of whether someone represents themselves or an organisation, there can be no place in public health debate for the kind of language that occurred.

FPH keeps our position on e-cigarettes under review, considering the latest developments and emerging evidence. If you would like to read our policy position on e-cigarettes, it is available at: http://bit.ly/1p2zEq7

We are absolutely committed to working to achieve the very best standard of health and wellbeing for everyone.

Thank you again for writing to FPH and raising your concerns.

Yours sincerely

 

This to us is a very poor attempt at an apology, does not address the issues raised, and is basically a ‘whitewash.

This is our follow on letter.

Dear,

Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to our recent complaint. As you are aware, our complaint related to the behaviour of Professor Ashton, not just in his activities on Twitter, but also his conduct in two discussions on BBC radio.

We wish to put on record our profound disappointment with how this whole matter has been dealt with by the Faculty of Public Health and in particular the content of your letter to which we are now responding.

For the record, it is worth pointing out the exact nature of our complaint again.

On Friday the 5th of September, Professor Ashton took part in at least two BBC radio debates, one with Professor Robert West and one with the former head of ASH Clive Bates. He participated in these debates not simply as Professor Ashton, but in his official capacity as President of the Faculty of Public Health – a vitally important fact.

It is fair to say that these were rather ill mannered debates on his part. Whilst Professor West focussed on actual evidenced based facts, Professor Ashton preferred to highlight his concerns for which in many instances there was little or no evidence. In Professor Ashton’s debate with Mr Bates he even went as far as to say nicotine made people go blind and despite repeated requests from the interviewer he was unable to provide a single piece of evidence to back up this statement. Such ill-founded statements not only serve to raise concerns amongst established vapers, they also serve to put smokers off making the switch to a less harmful alternative.

Over the following weekend Professor Ashton then engaged with a number of vapers on Twitter. We were not engaged in these exchanges but we have seen the tweets in question.

In our complaint we acknowledged the fact that Professor Ashton may have been subjected to a number of antagonistic tweets, which we did not condone. As we wrote at the time, there can be no excuse for bad behaviour on Twitter. However, Professor Ashton did not just respond to tweets directed at him, he went out of his way to search through Twitter to find historic tweets that vapers had posted weeks or months earlier, he then used these tweets to insult them. Professor Ashton set out that evening to deliberately seek out and abuse some very vulnerable people.

Whilst we do not condone any abusive e-mails directed at Professor Ashton, he is the professional head of the Faculty of Public Health. He was the one appearing in the news and debating on national television and radio. He is the one who heads up a body that should make pronouncements based on evidence based research.

It is here that we reach the crux of our complaint, a point that you failed to address neither in your complaints procedure nor in the letter to which we are responding.

It is clear from Professor Ashton’s tweets and by his increasingly alarmist pronouncements on radio that he (and remember he never disassociated the Faculty of Public Health from his comments) is not a supporter of e-cigarettes and holds vapers in complete contempt. Please remember that virtually all vapers rely on e-cigarettes to prevent them going back to smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Professor Ashton has therefore laid bare for all to see a total bias against e-cigarettes and vapers; he has also by association inferred that the Faculty of Public Health shares that bias. Furthermore, Professor Ashton has made it abundantly clear that his position (and remember he was speaking not as a concerned individual, but as the President of the Faculty of Public Health) is not in any way based on an objective review of the available facts. How therefore can he continue in his role as president of such an august body?

It is likely that the issue of e-cigarettes will continue to be of significant interest to both the media and policy makers, it is therefore also likely that the Faculty of Public Health and/or Professor Ashton will continue to be invited to opine on the subject. Whilst Professor Ashton remains president of the Faculty of Public Health it will be impossible for the organisation to speak on the issue of e-cigarettes with any credibility. This is hugely disappointing. As a campaign representing e-cigarette users, their friends, and their families we have no interest in a purely one-sided debate in which only pro-e-cigarette people are allowed to speak. We want a wide-ranging debate with all arguments expressed and robustly debated. Professor Ashton’s actions have made this more difficult. It would therefore be better for all concerned if the Faculty of Public Health had told Professor Ashton to step aside. We are left wondering what Professor Ashton, or any other of your employees, would have to do to be sacked. Professor Ashton by his behaviour and the Faculty of Public Health in its feeble response to the said behaviour have brought the Faculty of Public Health as a whole into disrepute.

We strongly urge you to look again at this matter.

We will be publishing this letter on our website and copying it to the Secretary of State for Health.

 

Letter to Professor Ashton

Dear Professor Ashton,

On Friday eight highly respected, credible, and independent public health and tobacco addiction experts, including Professor Ann McNeill, Professor Peter Hajek, and Professor Robert West, wrote in the journal Addiction expressing their concerns about the recently published WHO commissioned review of evidence on e-cigarettes. These experts did not state that e-cigarettes were 100 per cent safe; they simply stated that the WHO review contains important errors, misinterpretations and misrepresentations and that as a consequence the WHO could be putting policy-makers and the public in danger of foregoing the potential public health benefits of e-cigarettes.

Following the Addiction report you, in your capacity as President of the UK’s Faculty of Public Health, took part in at least two BBC radio debates, one with Professor Robert West and one with the former head of ASH Clive Bates. It is fair to say that these were rather ill mannered debates on your part. Whilst Professor West focussed on actual evidenced based facts, you preferred to highlight your concerns for which in many instances there was little or no evidence. In your debate with Mr Bates you even went as far as to say nicotine made people go blind and despite repeated requests from the interviewer you were unable to provide a single piece of evidence to back up this statement.

Over the weekend you then engaged with a number of e-cigarette users (vapers) on Twitter. We were not engaged in any of these exchanges but we have seen the tweets (see attached). Whilst you may have been subjected to a number of antagonistic tweets, which we would not condone, there can be no excuse for some of the language you used in your own tweets. Nor can there be any excuse for searching through Twitter to find tweets that vapers had posted weeks or months earlier and then to insult them. I include below a selection of your tweets.

“What do you call an unfettered, anonymous abusive apologist for the e-cig tobacco complex? A coward”

“I think I have identified a new species of human being this week. Obsessive compulsive abusive onanist with ecig tendencies”

“Have you always been an anonymous c..t or do you occasionally have a smudge on (sic) of personality and a human identity?”

“These abusive ecig people remind me of the lads who used to play with themselves behind the bike sheds at school”

“They (e-cig users/ supporters) are even more pathetic than that. Need ecigs to get aroused”

“Why are most of these ecig trolls anonymous? Are they just completely pathetic or pawns of Big Tobacco?”

You clearly realise how damaging these tweets are, not just to you, but also to the Faculty of Public Health, as you spent some time deleting the more abusive tweets from your twitter feed. As we have written, we do not condone any abusive tweets that you may have received, but you are the professional, the head of the Faculty of Public Health. You are the one appearing in the news and debating on national television and radio. You are the one who heads up a body that should make pronouncements based on evidence based research. It is clear from these tweets and by your increasingly alarmist pronouncements on the radio that you do not have much time for e-cigarettes and certainly no time for the vapers who rely on them to prevent them going back to smoking tobacco cigarettes.

In the radio debates and in your engagement on Twitter you have made clear that you are biased against e-cigarettes and vapers and that your position is not based on an objective review of all the available facts. How therefore can you speak openly on this issue again? Whilst you remain as its president it will also be impossible for the Faculty of Public Health to speak on this issue without anyone raising the question of bias. This is hugely disappointing. As a campaign representing e-cigarette users, their friends, and their families we have no interest in a purely one-sided debate in which only pro-e-cigarette people are allowed to speak. We want a wide-ranging debate with all arguments expressed and robustly debated. In your actions over the last few days you have made this more difficult. It would therefore be better for all concerned if you did the decent thing and stepped down from your position as President of the Faculty of Public Health as you have clearly brought both the position and the wider organisation into disrepute.

We will be publishing this letter on our website and copying it to the Secretary of State for Health.

Yours Sincerely,
Save E-cigs

Tweets from Prof Ashton