NNA Trustee Sarah Jakes on the All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting on Ecigarettes, held on Tuesday 10th June 2014.
Yesterday I had the very great honour to represent ECCA, NNA and the vaping community at a joint All Party Parliamentary Group meeting which was entitled “E-Cigarettes: Gateway to Addiction or Cessation? Establishing an APPG Position".
The meeting was a joint meeting of the APPGs on pharmacy, smoking and health, and heart disease and was chaired by MPs Sir Kevin Barron and Paul Burstow, with other members of both houses and interested parties
present. Huge thanks are due to Action on Smoking and Health for ensuring that the voice of consumers was heard.
The panel speakers were Professor David Walker, deputy chief medical officer, Professor Robert West, Rob Darracot, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, Rebecca Taylor MEP, Jeremy Mean, Deputy Director, Tobacco Control and Responsibility Deal, Department of Health and err...me. In the audience were representatives of public health organisations, pharmaceutical companies, medical practitioners and those involved in smoking cessation, among others.
I'm not going to attempt to give a blow by blow account of who said what to whom here, not least because it was impossible to take detailed notes and I don't want to misquote anyone, but I will try to summarise my
opinion at least of what the views of each speaker were.
Professor David Walker was cautious. He felt that far more research needed to be undertaken into toxicology and and the effects of long term use before e-cigarettes could be recommended. He was also concerned about marketing.
Professor West highlighted the data from his studies which showed there was no evidence of either a gateway effect or a decline in quit attempts due to e-cigarettes. As you might expect, he was very supportive of e-cigarettes and the opportunities for public health gains they represent.
For my part I tried to put across the view of consumers, and the effects that TPD and medical regulation will have on their access to the products they choose to use.
Rob Darracot was of the view that the MHRA should swiftly develop suitable processes for licensing, and that greater regulation is required to standardise devices in order to provide greater assurances to "patients" and the public. He was also in favour of public space bans.
Rebecca Taylor described the tortuous route the TPD had taken through the EP, and explained why she had abstained from the final vote.
Jeremy Mean explained that he wanted regulation to be flexible so as to allow maximum variety whilst addressing issues on safety and efficacy. (Note that Jeremy Mean is no longer with the MHRA and his new department will be responsible for implementing the TPD in the UK)
At the end of each panel session there was the opportunity for questions and discussion between panel members and parliamentarians around the table. Having heard Robert West’s presentation on the lack of any evidence on gateway or renormalisation, a question was raised whether we would be looking at public space bans because “children might see them”, but other discussion was on the whole pretty positive, with both sides finding some common ground at least, and a high degree of listening going on.
After both panel sessions had ended there was opportunity for the audience to make comments and ask questions, something which Dave Dorn of VTTV and NNA trustee Lorien Jollye took full advantage of.
The summary of Sir Kevin Barron MP at the end was really very positive. He appears to fully take on board the opportunities offered by e-cigarettes, with some reservations in the area of marketing. Deborah Arnott (ASH) did explain that marketing is being addressed by the current CAP consultation.
There followed a summing up by panel members, during which Rob Darrocot and Jeremy Mean surprised me, the former by recognising the fact that there are 2 million people out there who know what they want, and maybe we should take that into account, and the latter by agreeing with me that firstly, the classification of e-cigarettes as a tobacco product would be a bad thing, and secondly that appeal is an important factor and he will need to engage with those with real world experience of the products (whether he actually will is of course another matter).
All in all the meeting was, I felt, extremely productive and I hope that the exchange of views will be taken forward by all those involved. Additionally this was a welcome opportunity to make contacts, some of which I sincerely hope will bear fruit.
Watch this space.