The Global Forum on Nicotine returned to Warsaw for two days on the 5th and 6th of June. Would it be possible to match the success of last year? Most of our trustees attended, here Sarah Jakes gives her personal thoughts on the event.
As a trustee of NNA I get to attend a few conferences, seminars and workshops on the subject of e-cigarettes and vaping. All have value in that there is much to learn and much to impart, depending on the focus of the event and where the delegates are on the spectrum of acceptance of the concept of tobacco harm reduction.
Organised by Paddy Costall, Gerry Stimson and the team at 'Knowledge Action Change', the Global Forum on Nicotine is an entirely different beast. Now in just its second year it has become the 'must go' event for anyone with an open mind on the benefits tobacco harm reduction. I attended GFN 2014 and my thoughts on that inaugural event are here. My only worry about 2014 was to wonder how on earth they were going to match it - well I needn't have worried, they not only did that but took it to a whole new level in 2015.
Just like 2014, there was a strong feeling of inclusivity. Consumers were well represented, and their views were listened to and valued. It is true that none of the more vocal THR dissenters were present (perhaps unwilling to have their long held beliefs challenged, or to face the people most affected by their policy preferences) and whilst that is a shame it does not detract from the legacy of this event. Information and ideas were exchanged, relationships were renewed and reinforced, and new friends from far flung corners of the world were found.
For me, as a consumer advocate of tobacco harm reduction, what this event did was to re-energise me. It was hugely beneficial to meet and spend time with other advocates who face the same issues and problems. It is easy to experience burn out when faced with the frustrating tedium of responding to the same bland, unsupported and very often dishonest 'arguments' presented by certain quarters day in and day out. It is a refreshing change to spend time with like minded people, consumers and academics alike.
At first I thought it would be impossible for me to pinpoint a single high point from the conference this year. It was an intense experience - each apparent high closely followed by another. I had the very great honour of introducing the inventor of the modern e-cigarette, Hon Lik, at the pre conference party, who in turn had the honour of presenting the awards to the advocates of the year, Jens Mellin and Bernd Mayer. The Mike Russell oration, given this year by Derek Yach, was as inspirational as Clive Bates' presentation on competing visions for the tobacco 'endgame' was fascinating and revealing. But I think the prize this year has to go to our friends from down under. Marewa Glover's presentation on vaping in New Zealand, new territory for GFN, was heartfelt and at times personal. However, Attila Danko absolutely stole the show with his presentation on the war on vapour in Australia. Attila's presentation was raucous, energetic, entertaining and empowering but ultimately delivered a message that was devastating given the number of lives at stake. It was a powerful, passionate and blisteringly relentless condemnation of the apparent triumph of ideology over lives in Australian nation. There was barely a dry eye in the house as he received his well deserved standing ovation.
All of the presentations will be available on the GFN website soon together with videos. A selection of videos will be on VTTV together with interviews with many of the presenters and attendees. Enjoy!