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.

Advertisements

Split and separate votes not yet confirmed: message from Martin Callanan.

As there is much tension around this issue and there are various rumours spreading, this message has come from the Office of Martin Callanan this afternoon,Monday 24th Feb, 2013.

 

Re Split and Separate Votes:

We won’t know until tomorrow, after all the groups have made their submissions. I think it’s likely that he will allow ‘Splits and Separates’ BUT will take the vote on the whole trialogue agreement first. Then, if that is passed (which is very probable), all other votes will fall.

If that is the decided vote order, then before the vote starts, I will formally move on behalf of the ECR that the whole directive is referred back to the Envi committee because of Para 18. This will give MEPs who are supportive of e-cigs the chance to signal their support without voting against the whole TPD. This will most likely fail, but at least we will have tried!

Regards

Martin.

Latest news from Martin Callanan MEP.

Martin Callanan

Thanks to everyone for their feedback on my last blog posting. The number of people that continue to contact me about the issue of Article 18 only makes me redouble my and other Conservative MEPs’ efforts to defeat these nonsensical proposals.

Following that vote, the Tobacco Products Directive is now undergoing a final ‘lawyer-linguistic scrub’, ahead of a plenary vote expected in March (10th – 13th). The problem we now face is this: the full parliament has already held one vote, on the proposal, to determine its position. However, it did not vote on the so-called legislative resolution.

In the parliament a proposal can go through several readings before it becomes law, but in recent years almost all legislation is agreed at the first reading; a fast-tracked approach at the expense of transparency. It often means that new laws do not reach the full chamber until after a handful of MEPs have agreed it with national governments. Not the most democratic approach. On this directive, MEPs wanted to set out their position in a vote, but holding a legislative vote would have closed the First Reading and sent the whole directive back round the process it had just gone through. Instead, they negotiated a so-called first reading agreement with national governments.

Because of the rather convoluted manner in which this has been done, only the environment committee is now able to submit amendments to the proposal. Because of the lack of support from other groups in the committee, we will not be able to take this route.

However, there are still actions we can take under the parliament’s rules, which we have combed through for options.

Firstly, our Group will submit a request to the parliament for the agreement be opened up for so-called split and separate votes. This would allow us to pull out and vote separately on the parts that we do not like. The decision to open up the file rests entirely at the discretion of the President’s office. So you may like to email President Martin Schulz at martin.schulz@europarl.europa.eu and ask him to support the ECR request to open this file. We’ve already submitted a request which the President’s office is ‘considering’.

The second option is that the ECR Group could request that the whole directive be referred back to committee at the start of the vote itself. This would need a simple majority of MEPs. Given the European elections looming such a request is almost certain to see left-wing MEPs vilify me in the media for siding with big tobacco to attempt to derail this directive. I’m happy to live with that, not least because I made a deliberate decision not to meet with any representatives of large tobacco companies at the start of this directive’s passage through the parliament. And of course, ironically the left-wing MEPs are doing big tobacco the biggest favour of all by discouraging them to move from tobacco and on to e-cigs.

Both of these options are still going to need your help. Please keep emailing all your MEPs. Facebook, tweet, send letters, attend public meetings, call their offices. If you have the means then come to Strasbourg and lobby direct. Please do all you can to help us turn this situation around. We’ve made common sense prevail in a plenary vote once. We need to do it again.

 

Making sense of the proposed new e-cigarette regulations

Making sense of the proposed new e-cigarette regulations
Guest post by Clive Bates.

Half full or half empty?
Half full or half empty?
 
As the final negotiation over e-cigarettes in the tobacco products directive drew to a close. a nameless ‘senior diplomat involved in the negotiations’ was quoted in The Guardian. They were talking about e-cigarettes: It’s inhaled. It’s direct inhalation of nicotine into the lungs. That creates an addiction very fast… It encourages a switch to real cigarettes.” 
This is wrong in every respect – and not one scintilla of evidence justifies it, but plenty confounds it. So how come someone so ignorant is meddling in legislation to regulate products that are in fact amazingly positive alternatives to smoking? Why did the Guardian feel obliged to conceal the identity of this person?  So that a public official could remain unaccountable for their rogue opinions or propaganda statements?  People look at that sort of thing and rightly ask: “what do they know? And why are they in the room deciding on something important to me, when I’m shut out and no-one is listening to me and my experience?”.  I agree completely with this view – the e-cigarettes parts of the directive have been negotiated in secret, in insular meetings, where any old nonsense is treated as fact, and where evidence is brought in to support political decisions, not to inform policy.  Above all, they do not seem aware of the astonishing arrogance of agreeing something like this without consulting the millions of users and thousands of businesses affected or the dozens specialists who do the science and know the evidence?  For me, poor policy-making process is the reason why we end up with poor policy.  I’ve argued on my own blog that ‘embarrassingly poor policy-making‘ is the primary problem – poor legislation is the result of that. The right thing to do would have been to take out the e-cig proposals and do the job properly. But politicians and civil servants see themselves as heroic actors and don’t easily recognise the shortcomings of the processes in which they are playing a central role.
So what have they some up with?   
The e-cigs text, like the rest of the directive is a sprawling mess, with many arbitrary and disproportionate measures fiddling around with product design and commercial freedoms.  As a public health measure it is poor.  As a consumer protection measure it is poor.  As an EU internal market measure it is poor.  The main defence for the text as it stands is that it could have been much worse – and this is true.  We do owe thanks to MEPs like Chris Davies, Rebecca Taylor and Martin Callanan who have fought the good fight for vapers…  I only wish they’d succeeded in pulling it out and getting a new directive.
The main problem in general has been the obsessive focus on minor or implausible risks at the expense of the potential huge gains to smokers if the e-cigarettes can be made attractive enough to encourage switching.  Instead they have tried to make e-cigs deliberately unattractive, supposedly to protect non-smokers – but this is a serious public health miscalculation, given the minimal risks to the latter and huge benefits to the former. The public health establishment has done much to encourage that and has shown it has not learnt any lessons from its 21 year lethal error in supporting a ban on snus.
Compared to the darkest days of the worst proposals, the final text is not all bad and some of the most ridiculous ideas have been seen off in the negotiations.  In the end it has came down to frantic late night negotiation over rather weird things:
  • Maximum nicotine density for e-liquids now at 20mg/ml.  Completely counterproductive – limiting e-cig appeal to heavier smokers, preventing more compact energy efficient devices, and blocking future innovations.  And cuts through the ranges of the major manufacturers.  But significantly lower thresholds were under discussion at one point – the Germans wanted 5mg/ml!
  • Maximum nicotine quantity per single use cartridge – at one point an unfeasible 10mg – now specified as 2ml (therefore up to 40mg if the liquid is 20mg/ml) in a single use cartridge. There was no need to limit this quantity at all as safety concerns are addressed through packaging standards.
  • Maximum refillable container size of 10ml has been agreed.  Stupid and pointless, but not fatal as I think quite a common refill size.  We would normally control risks from hazardous liquids by packaging and labelling – not by reducing the size. Imagine if we took that approach to bleach or drain cleaner.
  • No EU ban on refillable (2nd and 3rd generation) devices.  This was in prospect but has been successfully thwarted – though with some strings. The Commission will have powers to ban them if three members states do and they can justify it on proportionality grounds – though this is more likely to apply to a specific dodgy product than the entire refillable category.
  • No EU flavour bans. Regulations are to be left to the members states. At one point they wanted to allow only flavours approved for use in NRT, which would have been absurdly limiting.  But now we will probably end up with lots of arbitrary rules based on the wrong assumption that adolescents want to use flavours that are childish.  I reckon if there was anthrax flavour it would be more popular with them than strawberry sherbet or. whatever…
  • Many forms of advertising, sponsorship, promotion, product placement – TV, radio, cross-border – are banned.  This is ridiculous and disproportionate – and will cause all sorts of damage (eg. to sponsored forums).  The products are much less dangerous than alcohol and could be regulated with a code – as the UK is planning to do.
  • Cross border distance sales – these can be banned by member states, but are not automatically banned.
  • Lots of testing, reporting and compliance requirements – but no pre-market authorisation regime, which would have created major political and administrative barriers
  • Age limits. Not included as these are a matter for member states.
  • Medicines regulation – they seem to want the flexibility to regulate e-cigs as medicines at national level.  Heads in the sand on this, given they keep losing in court. 
  • Timing.  Looks like intent is to bring in the measures 24 months after entry into force (likely May 2016) with possible additional 12 months for non-compliant products already on the market – this is one area that is unclear in the drafting.
  • A number a strange statements are made in the recitals to justify the measures,  for example about a gateway effect – something there is no evidence for at all.
Missing things
They don’t seem to have set up a proper basis for setting agreed purity standards or operating standards for devices.   That might have been useful. 
They don’t seem to have given any thought to unintended consequences – black or grey market, DIY, non-nicotine products, internet trade etc
 
An end to free speech?
Many people have picked out what sounds like a draconian curtailment of free speech in paragraph 5 of Article 18  “any form of public or private contribution to [media] with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes is prohibited“.  It isn’t actually – the key word is ‘contribution’, which means ‘paid for’ with the aim of promoting a product.  Brussels speak for advertising, sponsorship and promotion – as already used in the directives that ban tobacco advertising.
Legal challenges?
i mention the EU internal market above, because that is the legal base for this measure – it is supposed to support the free movement of goods around the EU, albeit with a high level of health protection.  But departures from free movement principle on health grounds do need to be based on evidence and be proportionate and non-discriminatory – and many of these are not.  It remains to be seen if anyone has both the intent and muscle to challenge any of it in court.
What happens next? 
It’s not law until both the full European Parliament and European Council (member states) agree the text.  The EP is likely to vote on it at its January or February plenaries (w/c 13 Jan, 4 Feb, or 24 Feb) but a date is not yet set. If EP agrees it goes back to the European Council for final rubber stamping – then becomes law. If the EP amends or votes it down, then it goes to a second reading or the Council can accept the EP amendment.  The UK government will also have to go into the Westminster parliament and defend its approach before it can sign up to the text at the European Council.
E-cig industry
Industry attention will turn to what many of the more vaguely expressed measures actually mean in practice….
– What will the definition of “consistent dosing” be? Will there be a standard deviation? What will this be and do current product lines respect it?
– How will manufacturers be asked to report nicotine uptake? Does this require a PK study? Are there other ways it can be done?
– How will the technical standards of the refill mechanism foreseen for bottles be drawn up?
– What kind of toxicity data will be required?
– What kind of emissions data will be required?
 
What can vapers do…? 
1. At every opportunity write to MPs, MEPs and ministers and keep making the case relentlessly. Watch forums for tactical advice on when and who to contact and on what theme.
2. Consider political strategy for the directive  – come out fighting or move with the punch…?
Come out fighting? Should we try to get this rejected at the European Parliament plenary? One approach would be a simple ‘delete’ amendment, replace with “The Commission shall consult and publish a review the risks, benefits and regulatory arrangements for e-cigarettes within 12 months and bring forward legislative proposals as appropriate”.  The value of this depends on the prospect of securing a majority in the European Parliament – that is still hard to gauge at present.  It would be necessary to show some fairly blatant unintended consequences or harms to convince MEPs to go out on a limb for this.
Move with the punch? Focus on making the implementation work and pressing for flexibility where there are obviously errors. Working out what it means in practice and focussing on implementing regulations.   We would need some key flash points to tackle with this,
3. Recognise that product regulation is one battle of many.  There is still huge work to be done on many fronts: vaping in public places: the attitude of NHS, Directors of Public Health and local authorities; keeping the MHRA in its box; and generally winning a propaganda war in which supposedly respectable organisations are playing dirty and elements of the media are taking every opportunity to have a go.
Clive Bates

Twitter: Clive_Bates