The NNA spoke directly to MPs in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday, an important day for vaping consumers.
At the UKVIA Forum last month, NNA Trustees Sarah Jakes and Gerry Stimson featured on a panel chaired by Norman Lamb, Chair of the governmental Science and Technology Committee which is currently taking evidence on the use of e-cigarettes in the UK. An IBVTA member asked a question to the panel as to why the Committee had not taken evidence from consumers and the independent vaping industry. Sarah and Gerry both commented that this was, indeed, an opportunity missed, and Norman Lamb agreed to think on it. Less than 24 hours later invites were issued to NNA, IBVTA and UKVIA to come to parliament on May 9th to give evidence.
It was because of this that Sarah travelled to Westminster yesterday afternoon to speak directly to the seven cross-party MPs comprising the committee on the day, along with Fraser Cropper of the IBVTA and John Dunne of the UKVIA. The MPs raised questions concerning short fills, pointless TPD regulations, potential excise duties, advertising, e-cigarettes by prescription and vaping bans, to which Sarah expressed the NNA’s positions.
It was a very useful exercise and we were grateful to be able to bring the issues vapers face throughout the UK to the heart of Westminster and present them personally to elected officials. However, Sarah’s opening remarks emphasised that many of those problems are caused by failings in government policy in the past.
After highlighting misjudged parliamentary reactions to tobacco harm reduction – specifically towards snus in the 1980s and 1990s at domestic and EU level and by ministers who were not even aware that e-cigarettes were included in the TPD more recently – Sarah urged the more enlightened politicians of today to show further commitment to encouraging the use of safer nicotine products for those who choose to quit smoking.
With Brexit on the horizon, the NNA feels now is a perfect opportunity to show further leadership, not complacency, towards harm reduction. The government’s Tobacco Control Plan seeks to build on evidence from Public Health England as to the benefit to public health of risk-reduced alternatives and broaden the Royal College of Physicians’ call for vaping to be promoted widely. What better way could there be than to celebrate shackles being lifted once Britain leaves the EU by also unburdening an e-cigarette market bogged down by petty and pointless regulations on tank sizes, nicotine strengths and e-liquid bottle volumes?
We believe that members of the Science and Technology Committee are receptive to our ideas, but the wider Westminster legislative community needs to be convinced too. Yesterday was constructive in putting some forthright opinions across and we maintain that when it comes to repealing unhelpful regulations from Brussels as Brexit unravels, the counterproductive terms of the TPD towards vaping should be discarded and would be a simple, uncomplicated way of ‘taking back control’.
This is your organisation speaking directly to MPs to help influence government policy and we fully intend to continue doing so. You can watch the hour-long committee hearing here, we think you will enjoy it. And if you do, please remember we are volunteers working on a shoestring budget, so if you like what you see, share widely and consider donating – details here - to help us carry on doing what we do.