May has been another busy month for the NNA, here are just some of the activities we have been getting involved in on behalf of consumers.
Truth to power
The UK Parliament's Science and Technology Committee held another oral evidence session for their e-cigarettes inquiry on the afternoon of 9th May, and Sarah Jakes spoke for the NNA on the panel. She was accompanied in giving evidence by representatives of the two main UK trade bodies, John Dunne of the UKVIA and Fraser Cropper of IBVTA. Sarah was forthright in urging the seven MPs present to show further leadership, not complacency, towards harm reduction, and to build on evidence as to the public health benefits of risk-reduced nicotine alternatives.
With Brexit fast approaching, Sarah made it quite clear that abandoning the pointless regulations imposed by the TPD would be a big step forward for the UK and perfectly in keeping with the government’s latest Tobacco Control Plan. Various reports of the day praised Sarah for her performance and we were pleased that she could represent your advocacy group in the heart of Westminster directly addressing MPs. You can read our report on the day here and watch the full hearing at Parliament TV here and on YouTube here.
Sarah Jakes with John Dunne and Fraser Cropper after giving testimony to MPs at the Science and Technology Committee
WHO do they think they are?
The World Health Organisation held a quickfire consultation on non-communicable diseases between the 10th and 16th of May and the NNA decided it was a perfect opportunity to put forward the case for safer nicotine alternatives. You can read our submission here. We argued that tobacco harm reduction has been neglected in international tobacco control and urged the WHO to engage with civil societies and consumers to help achieve the goals they have set for themselves.
Imagine our surprise, then, when we found that our response had been relegated to a sub-heading of “feedback received from entities with which WHO does not engage”. We contacted the WHO to ask why they inexplicably excluded a charity consumer association from proposing reasonable ideas, but they have still not had the decency to reply.
We felt this was a gross abuse of authority on the part of the WHO and will be raising the matter with authorities in the UK. You can read our account of how the WHO’s juvenile behaviour has failed to adhere to its own articles and previously stated declarations here.
We also criticised the WHO’s latest World No Tobacco Day for not including any mention of vaping or other harm reduction methods in its global publicity. We felt this was a missed opportunity and issued a press release to that effect which has been picked up by some media with more to come. You can read our press release here
Down the tube
There have been worrying happenings on YouTube with many vape reviewers reporting that their videos are being censored and – in some cases – their accounts being shut down with scant right of appeal. NNA trustee Martin Cullip wrote an article for Spiked highlighting how this purge of vaping content poses a sinister threat to free speech online.
It is worth noting that the NNA successfully fought for the right of vape reviewers to continue to offer insight and guidance for consumers when there was a threat to include them in the TPD’s ban on marketing across borders, otherwise they could have been banned already. Martin argued that these efforts could be wasted if YouTube can bypass democratic process and censor reviews on the back of baseless moral panicking.
It is not restricted to YouTube either, nor is it confined to product reviews. The NNA routinely suffers publicity being pulled from Google for daring to mention anything related to quitting smoking. Despite being trusted to present to government committees in the UK, on social media the same tobacco harm reduction arguments are increasingly forbidden. You can read Martin’s article at Spiked here.
The NNA had a presence at Vaper Expo in Birmingham at the start of the month and became somewhat popular for our “considerate vaping welcome” stickers. Our stand in the meet and greet area attracted great interest over the weekend and we handed out hundreds of the stickers to grateful vapers and vendors. By the Sunday there was barely a stall in the venue which didn’t have a few of them on display somewhere.
Along with a journalist from the Guardian, Neil H from Ecigclick also came to have a chat to us and later wrote about the impact our stickers were having post-Expo. You can read his excellent account – along with plenty of pictures and a tub-thumping tie-in to the World Cup – by clicking here.
The team of Jessica Harding, Andy Morrison, John Summers, Martin Cullip and Sue Wilson also spoke to an eclectic range of interested visitors over the weekend, and not only vaping consumers. Vendors from diverse areas from the north right down to Jersey in the Channel Islands popped by, and we even spoke to a delegate planning to hold an expo in Australia! Now wouldn’t that be worth keeping an eye out for?
We would like to give a huge thank you to the Vaper Expo organisers for giving us the stand and for making us so welcome.
Last month, NNA trustee and director of GFN Paddy Costall held a dialogue in Vancouver to discuss harm reduction and the increased interest from the Canadian legislature. He encountered several problems when faced with ideological objections, some of which were libellous and shameful, and I’m sure that we will hear more about it in the future. However, the event went ahead, and Paddy was interviewed by Regulator Watch where he spoke favourably of Canada’s approach and how consumer-based initiatives could have lasting positive consequences. You can watch the five minute interview here:
Torn from the USA
Yesterday, NNA Chair Sarah Jakes and former Chair Gerry Stimson addressed a delegation of US congressional representatives in London’s Grafton Hotel. The ‘fact finding’ visit was arranged by R Street Institute and delegates were staff from both the US Senate and House of Representatives and evenly split between those working for Democrats and Republicans, looking to be better informed about issues surrounding harm reduction in a number of areas. The previous day TV’s Dr Christian Jessen had been invited to speak to them at the House of Lords so the NNA is in good company.
Gerry spoke first and explained the history of harm reduction in the illicit drug and HIV world, and how it translates into tobacco harm reduction, emphasising the importance of consumer and industry in having driven the success the UK has enjoyed in recent years. Sarah followed by explaining why and how the NNA was formed, what we do, what we have accomplished and why we do it from a consumer point of view, and why choice, variety, innovation and autonomy are important to consumers. The presentation was well-received, and we hope that our input may help vapers on the other side of the Atlantic.
SSS in the SW
Also yesterday, stop smoking services adviser and NNA trustee Sairah Salim-Sartoni visited South Gloucestershire to assist several groups tasked with assisting smokers amongst mental health populations. Sairah is supporting South Gloucestershire stop smoking services in designing an e-cigarette voucher system – in partnership with local vape shops - to provide starter kits to those who might be wary of investing meagre resources on equipment that might not suit. She was well-received by representatives of Bristol University, Trading Standards, and a healthy number of wellbeing groups.
Tomorrow’s news today
June is looking to be an equally busy month for the NNA. In Scotland, Andy Morrison is in the process of embarking on a study with Oxford Universities that NNA were asked to assist with and preliminary paperwork has been completed. We hope to report more on this as it progresses.
And lastly, the fifth Global Forum on Nicotine begins in Warsaw on the 14th June with NNA again being represented. Sarah Jakes will be presenting on “Rethinking why people like nicotine” while Martin Cullip will be debating “Who can we trust? Evidence and promises”, both on Friday the 15th. NNA associate Clive Bates will also be hosting a discussion entitled “Rethinking nicotine, where to next?”, Andy Morrison will be giving reflections on the conference in the closing session, and we are proud that former Chair of the NNA, Professor Gerry Stimson, is presenting the Michael Russell Award this year.
Keep visiting the NNA site for more about Warsaw in coming weeks plus further news at the end of June.
Time is money
May has been another very busy month with many NNA trustees giving their time for free, as you can see. We need your support to carry on doing so. Please keep your donations coming in via the donate button below, and if you can commit to a standing order or regular PayPal payment it would be gratefully received.