August is generally recognised as ‘silly season’ where the absence of any concrete political news sees media puff out their content with barely newsworthy articles. There was little going on for NNA last month either so we let the August newsletter slide in favour of a summer and autumn one covering September too, not that we were entirely redundant during the school holidays, as this round-up of our activities will show. It’s been a couple of months of exciting new initiatives coupled with fighting the relentless anti-harm reduction zombie arguments emanating from the public health community.
We start this newsletter by proudly announcing that we are founder partners of a new Europe-wide consumer advocacy organisation called European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA). It was launched on 26th September with the goal of joining forces with regional consumer groups to amplify the voice of the many millions of safer nicotine users in Europe.
In less than a week, ETHRA already boasts 14 European partners and we are proud that the NNA is one of them. As a region, Europe is generally blessed with sensible regulation compared with some of the wacky and ignorant approaches being taken in many jurisdictions worldwide, but it is important to stay vigilant. There are still many threats posed by enemies of harm reduction which can interfere with the world-leading regulation employed here and throw us back to the dark ages where reactionary puritans would have us exist.
The press release announcing the birth of ETHRA immediately pricked up the ears of the Politico news aggregator in Brussels who described it as the “new vape voice on the bloc”. The NNA was one of six European consumer groups to be quoted in the initial announcement – which you can read here - and you can read further coverage in UK vaping media here and here. Articles in French, Italian and Norwegian also greeted the launch and we described why it is important on our website too, which you can read by clicking here. You can view – and bookmark - ETHRA’s new website at ethra.co and follow @europethra on Twitter.
PLUCK OF THE IRISH
We are also very pleased that this month sees the launch of a new NNA sister organisation in the form of NNA Ireland. Shepherded into existence by long-term advocates Damian Sweeney and Tom Gleeson, we wish them every success in tackling the general mistrust of reduced risk products currently prevalent across the Irish Sea. It couldn’t have come at a better time considering there have been suggestions this week that Ireland should follow the lead of other gullible nations and ban flavours in e-cigarettes based on nothing but scare stories and deliberate deceit.
The NNA Ireland website will be launched very soon, but until then do follow them on Twitter here.
INDIAN VAPE TRICK
It’s not just Ireland rowing in behind disingenuous scare stories to pass astonishingly bad laws about vaping. India has been gagging to ban safer products for years and seized on misinformation from the USA to implement a comprehensive ban on production, import, sale and use. There are 120 million smokers in India, yet the government there thinks that restricting safer products is a good idea. For info, the Indian tobacco industry is partly state-owned, but we are certain this had nothing to do with their decision whatsoever.
At the start of September, the NNA wrote to the Indian Prime Minister to urge a better appreciation of harm reduction, sadly in vain. You can read our correspondence here.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON VAPING
Of course, much of the news lately – and the vehicle that Irish THR-wreckers and others are using to confuse the public and introduce bans - has focussed on developments in the USA where illegal oil-based liquids are being consumed and causing all manner of health problems.
On our blog, we explained why British vapers who have been urged by their friends and family to immediately quit e-cigarette use should not be alarmed and provided a number of sources to illustrate that the recent media stories are classic panic-fostering which consumers can produce when faced with non-vapers who are sucked in by the hysteria. We pointed out that “The e-cigarette market in the UK is tightly regulated under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations Act 2016 so you, your friends and family should have nothing to worry about. Keep calm, educate them, and carry on vaping.”
You can read why we say there is ‘nothing to see here’ in full at this link.
LABOURING THE POINT
NNA'S Martin Cullip and Jessica Harding travelled to Brighton for the start of the Labour Party Conference on the 23rd where Martin spoke on a Prospect Magazine panel entitled “Does Brexit present new opportunities for the vaping industry?”. This was on the same day that BBC News was reporting that Labour would be deciding their Brexit stance in the main auditorium at the Brighton Centre, so it couldn’t be more apt a conversation. Sir Kevin Barron MP – an enthusiastic supporter of harm reduction – was also on the panel and both our representatives reported that the reception from delegates in the room was largely positive towards e-cigarettes. In the past, the Labour Party has been reticent to back risk reduced products but, in the UK, we now seem to have a cross-party belief in their efficacy which is very encouraging. Long may that continue.
As reported in our July newsletter, our Vice Chair Louise Ross travelled to Rio de Janeiro in August to talk about how vape-friendly stop smoking services in the UK have been a success and that it’s not a bad idea to replicate the approach. Louise reports that there was some opposition but “the audience when I talked about the UK experience were quietly encouraging”. She also said that some medical professionals were “advising patients to switch to vaping, but because e-cigarettes are banned in Brazil, they have to buy expensive illegal imports. Sensible regulation could sort this out, but who has the ear of the Ministry of Health?”. Who indeed?
Vaping is banned in Brazil so the fact that Louise met doctors there who have seen through the wall of misleading information is very encouraging.
A year of work came to a conclusion on Friday 20 September, as NNA representatives Andy Morrison, Dave Cross and Louise Ross debated with workshop attendees at the final Priorities Setting Partnership for e-cigarette research.
Imagine a colander, containing almost 2,000 potential research questions, the contents being filtered down into a sieve with smaller holes, and then finally put through a tea-strainer, until we ended up with a consensus-led decision about which the top 10 most important items for research are, according to consumers, healthcare workers, vapers, smokers, non- and ex-smokers and anyone else with an interest in the subject.
Top of the list throughout was Long Term Effects, and the current doubts being sown make this even more relevant. Also important were vaping in pregnancy, mental health, secondhand vape and efficacy in smoking cessation.
The PSP was a fantastic opportunity to gather the views of consumers, as well as others who occupy this space, and to influence the future trends around how research funding awards are made. The New Nicotine Alliance made a significant contribution, on equal terms with healthcare representatives, to a promising new raft of research.
E-Cigarettes Priority Setting Partnership infographic, also viewable here
VAPING BANS ARE BAD M'KAY
We were heartened in August to find out that the Indiana University School of Public Health agrees with our regular assertion that bans on vaping in public spaces are a very bad idea. Their research found that “Adults living in the states with an aerosol-free policy (including vaping in legislative smoking bans) were less likely to use ENDS (e-cigarettes) compared with those living in the states without an aerosol-free policy”. Obviously, to encourage smokers to use reduced risk products instead of smoking, there should be some kind of incentive and vaping bans are the very opposite of that.
We blogged about this evidence-based confirmation of what we vapers have always known, saying “No amount of stressing the safer nature of vaping from public health groups will ever be as powerful an opinion-former to the general public as a prohibitive and dramatic “no vaping” sign or announcement on a public tannoy”. You can read our article on the subject here.
WE BAND OF VAPERS
The end of September saw the release of this year’s ASH report on e-cigarette use in the UK. It revealed yet another rise in the numbers of vapers to 3.6 million, up from 3.2 million last year, 1.9 million of whom have switched entirely from smoking. We were encouraged by these figures in light of recent scare stories and commented that “it is heartening to see that there is still a significant rise in consumers seeing through the noise and choosing to vape instead. It suggests that there is a culture in the UK of smokers and vapers engaging with each other to share experiences and information”. You can read our full article on the ASH survey in our news section here.
TOMORROW'S NEWS TODAY
NNA Associate Andy Morrison is venturing up to the Scottish National Party Conference in Aberdeen in October to discuss “Where next for vaping in Scotland?”. We wrote about the Scottish Tobacco Control Plan and the flaws it contains back in July last year which you can read here. Nothing much has changed in the interim and the SNP is now ill-advisedly suggesting following through with a draconian and misjudged ban on advertising for e-cigarettes. We hope Andy will be able to persuade SNP delegates of the benefits of harm reduction and that vaping in Scotland – and their smoking rates – will be going absolutely nowhere if faced with the alarmism that is currently proposed.
A delegation from the NNA is also scheduled to meet a very prominent government grandee from the Philippines in October. The country is deeply set against harm reduction, but we hope to leave them with some positive messages before they head back to Manila from London.
Lastly, trustee Sarah Jakes was invited to speak on Turkish TV about vaping and the show has been recorded for broadcast very soon. At time of publication it was not available, but we will update you in the next newsletter. Watch this space.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
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