June was dominated by the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw. This year being the sixth staging, many NNA Trustees, associates and supporters were in Poland for the event which attracted a record 600-plus attendees. There were also a host of journalists, so the NNA took the opportunity to speak about a currently much-discussed topic while over there.
On the Friday of GFN, the NNA hosted a press briefing on the importance of flavours in vaping liquids. A panel representing academia, industry and consumers emphasised how vital flavours are in ensuring vapers do not relapse to smoking once they have found a set-up that works for them.
The event was in response to many voices – especially in the USA – beginning to talk about banning flavours in vaping products. As consumers ourselves, we know how important flavours are and it would be highly damaging to remove the choice that flavours bring to the marketplace. As James Dunworth, vaping blogger and owner of E-Cigarette Direct said during the panel: “Vaping works because it's fun. Take the pleasure out of vaping and it will stop working. Key to that pleasure is flavour. Because of demand, there are a huge number of flavours, meaning there's something for everyone - and when someone finds their perfect flavour, they’re highly unlikely to go back to smoking.”
Dr Sharon Cox, Dr Christopher Russell, James Dunworth, Martin Cullip and Nancy Sutthoff
We couldn’t agree more, and neither could Dr Sharon Cox of South Bank University, who said: “The evidence suggests flavours are one of a few key components, important to both the new vaper and the experienced vaper, which help people abstain from smoking.”
You can read our press release following the briefing here, and vaping press reports here, here and here. We printed 50 copies of the release to distribute at the Warsaw venue and just under an hour later they had all been taken. We hope that we offered food for thought to many in the venue.
Elsewhere at GFN, on the Thursday NNA Chair Martin Cullip oversaw a marathon half day consumer alignment meeting comprised of several panels on issues of interest to those who use safer nicotine products. The meeting began with a cracking panel on what good consumer advocacy should look like in advance of the World Health Organisation’s COP9 in The Hague next year and how former smokers can defend their chosen reduced risk products internationally.
Eveline Hondius, Kim Dabelstein Petersen, David Sweanor, Martin Cullip, Clive Bates and Fiona Patten
To a packed audience where there was literally standing room only, Clive Bates opened proceedings explaining how to approach the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which he described as “an authorizing environment for bad policy, an echo chamber-like environment where people pat each other on the back for doing things that won’t really benefit anybody”. David Sweanor of the University of Ottowa chipped in to ridicule the stance of governments which ban vaping products – such as Australia and as San Francisco has recently voted for – while conventional cigarettes are still legal, with the analogy “We don’t want people to play tennis, but it’s ok if they toss bombs back and forth.”. While Fiona Patten, leader of the Reason Party in Australia, responded to Martin’s question as to whether New Zealand’s liberal stance towards vaping and heated tobacco might sway her country’s government by saying that “New Zealand is a nice Australia, we wish we could adopt it” to peals of laughter in the room. Eveline Hondius of Acvoda gave us a much needed perspective on the THR landscape in the Netherlands and INNCO’s Kim Dalbenstein Petersen provided essential input on what consumer plans for COP 9 could look like.
Other panels during the day focussed on establishing regional global consumer networks, how safer nicotine fits in with established and accepted harm reduction strategies in other areas, and how consumers can target messaging effectively. Many thanks to Norbert Zillatron for filming and uploading the videos, you can watch those here.
The next day, NNA Associate Andy Morrison gave a stinging rundown of bad policy on vaping from regulators and industry as part of the At the front line - what do consumers need? panel, featuring consumers from North America, Europe and Asia reporting on what is happening in their part of the world. This event was also extremely well-attended with barely a seat spare and the issues shared were illuminating as to the interface between consumers and vendors and the struggles going on all over the world to make policymakers see common sense. You can watch that here.
Andy Morrison, James Dunworth, Clarisse Virgino, Ángeles Muntadas-Prim Lafita, Zhenyi Zhou and Spike Babaian
We also produced a poster for GFN detailing our input to the VApril campaign for which we authored a guide to smokers who are embarking on using e-cigarettes for the first time. See below for the finished article, which was very well-received at the venue.
NNA poster at #GFN19
Lastly on GFN, this year the conference held its first raffle in aid of charity and the NNA were the inaugural beneficiaries. During the event, NNA trustee Bernice Evans was busily selling tickets to delegates and a final push from fellow trustee Gerry Stimson edged the proceeds to just over £1,000. Even better is that both the top two winners donated their prizes to us too, which added an extra boost.
Please see the end of this newsletter for how you can support us, your donations are vital to support the work we do.
Last month we reported that Mark Pawsey MP had promised to contact Acas about their web page on vaping in the workplace that was desperately out-of-date and contained dubious – and often inaccurate – advice for employers. This was after the NNA’s Martin Cullip had raised the point during a panel that the MP was chairing.
We can now report that the Chief Executive of Acas has replied, conceding that “there is indeed grounds for improving Acas guidance on vaping” and promising to amend the terminology used on the site as well as providing “more up to date links to commentators and advice on the issue of vaping”. We obviously very much welcome this and look forward to seeing the new guidance once it has been published.
DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY
Towards the end of June, Action on Smoking and Health published their latest research into the subject of underage vaping in the UK. Once again, it concluded that we do not have a problem in the UK and that the regulatory environment here is appropriate. We wrote about the new statistics when they were released to emphasise that the doomsayers on youth vaping should stop talking up non-existent risks and let other countries follow the lead that is so successful here.
“The simple fact is that despite the global panic about e-cigarettes, in a properly regulated market we are seeing safer nicotine products such as e-cigarettes consistently delivering hugely positive benefits for public health. The UK now boasts over 3.2 million vapers and the country’s smoking prevalence is at a record low after dramatic declines which coincide with the period in which vaping has ballooned here. Vaping by children and teens, by comparison, is negligible and mostly made up of those who either already smoked or would have done absent of an alternative. Other countries should take note.” You can read the blog in full here.
MEANS TO AN ENDS
Finally, as mentioned last month, NNA Chair Martin Cullip presented to an industry audience at the ENDS Conference in Marble Arch in early June. He was critical of some approaches to policy currently being undertaken by vape businesses, most especially in the way industry is being sucked into battles it shouldn’t be fighting.
As mentioned earlier in this newsletter, youth vaping is not a problem in a properly regulated market, and Martin instead introduced the conference to ‘Dorothy and Brian’ pictured below, a charming couple who are both vapers of small devices but are more representative of e-cigarette consumers than the cloud-chasing enthusiasts favoured by screeching tabloid media. He reiterated that for every consumer using high wattage devices, there will be 40 or 50 others who the public would not even notice.
It is important to be vigilant where youth vaping is concerned, Martin said, but the more pressing issues for industry are unnecessary vaping bans and lack of resources for conveying positive messages to the public at large. He suggested that industry could help us help them by using their social media to advocate for all of us instead of just selling kit and portray vapers as they are – former smokers – rather than hip, funky and cool trend-setters.
THEY NEED YOU!
NNA trustee Louise Ross has always made the point that although the vaping products age of sale law strengthens the UK position on stopping underage people starting to use nicotine products, it has unintended consequences for young people from vulnerable groups (for example, looked after children and users of mental health services). It is well-documented that these young people tend to start smoking in their early teens - if not before - and every year that they continue to smoke, they increase their risk of developing a smoking-related illness.
Knowing that there is little interest among these groups in using a stop smoking service and yet showing an interest in vaping as an alternative, Louise has begun gathering practical examples of how a carefully thought-out approach might enable vaping among vulnerable young people who are already smoking, in order to reduce harms among people who are already disadvantaged.
It is a controversial area but is currently under-researched for varied reasons, which Louise would like to change. If you have views on this or - more importantly - if you work with looked after children or users of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), Louise would be very interested to hear from you.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
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