Yesterday I spoke at the first meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on E-Cigarettes that has been held since trade body UKVIA took over the secretariat. The meeting was in two parts, the first part being an overview of the public health challenges and the second being "industry views" - I found myself rather incongruously in the second part.
Professor Kevin Fenton led off the first part by detailing the work undertaken to date by Public Health England in this area and outlining the challenges we still face. These included public perception of relative risk and the appalling manner in which the media approaches the subject. Professor Peter Hajek then explained the role that researchers have played in this, and detailed some of the methods employed in order to portray what are often trivial or irrelevant risks as important indicators of harm. After a brief foray into the role of UKVIA and how their involvement with the APPG may relate to article 5.3 of the FCTC, George Butterworth then described Cancer Research UK's involvement in research, and in particular their role in analysing and, if appropriate, debunking poor, or poorly reported studies.
After a couple of questions the second part began with Charlie Hamshaw Thomas (UKVIA and Nicopure) praising the UK stance on tobacco harm reduction and also how far industry had come in delivering new and ever better products. Ian Green (IBVTA) then spoke about the challenges which 'Italian style' enforcement would pose to an industry which had spent considerable sums on compliance. A representative from Trading Standards in the audience was asked how they intend to approach the issue, and he replied by saying that their response would be proportionate given the other issues which they are expected to deal with, and would likely be complaint-led in practice.
My turn came to offer the consumer view and I presented the challenges which consumers face under the new regulations and also due to the very poor public perception of vaping. Points raised included nicotine concentration limits, advertising restrictions, usage bans, and the activities of prohibitionist groups such as the BMA and the WHO.
Finally, Andrew Allison of The Freedom Association was invited to speak briefly about the report they compiled which revealed the atrocious state of local authority vaping policies. Kevin Fenton responded by explaining that PHE are working with some authorities on changing this, and will continue to try to improve the situation.
I'm told that 9 parliamentarians attended the meeting, either in person or via their researchers. Some interesting and pertinent questions were asked although time was very limited as we only had an hour. Hopefully future meetings can focus in on the individual challenges identified so that they can be discussed in more detail.