As 2020 approaches we can look back at what the NNA has been up to in the last 12 months. It has been a difficult year, but we expect an even more difficult one to come and we will need all your support to get through it. Please share our posts, make a financial donation, but most of all in 2020, be prepared to get active as there are momentous challenges ahead. To learn how to donate to the NNA and support our work, please see the bottom of this page. In the meantime, here are highlights from 2019.
The year began quietly but NNA Trustees were active, nonetheless. A significant report by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) was released for which our Vice Chair, Louise Ross, had helped with recruiting subjects. The study found that vaping doubles a smoker’s chances of quitting, when compared with NRT, and gathered a lot of national media interest as well as being cited regularly throughout the year at conferences and in news articles. You can read the report here.
Louise co-authored a separate report released in January alongside our former Chair, Sarah Jakes, and produced in partnership with Caitlin Notley of the University of East Anglia and Sharon Cox of South Bank University. It concluded that academics should be involving vapers in their investigations or else they will come up with unrealistic or incorrect results. The report is available to read here.
January also saw the release of a film by PHE comparing the effect of emissions from cigarettes and e-cigarettes on cotton wool in two bell jars. The film is available at the BBC website here and you can read our reaction to it on our blog here.
NNA Trustee Louise Ross joined Professor Peter Hajek and Dr Katie Myers Smith of Queen Mary University, Martin Dockrell of Public Health England and other public health influencers on a tour of London, Birmingham and York to discuss the conclusions of January’s revealing QMUL study.
Louise also wrote a guest article at Clive Bates’s Counterfactual site to explain her role in the E-cigarettes Priority Setting Partnership which we highlighted on our blog in January here. Meanwhile, Jessica Harding attended the APPG on vaping meeting at the House of Commons, arranged for MPs to discuss the industry’s role in preventing youth uptake of vaping products. She reported that, although this was a meeting to take evidence from industry only, MPs on the day made a very good effort at putting the consumer case and seem to have taken the NNA’s previous contributions on board.
March began with ominous signs from the EU that they intend to crack down on vaping in the next iteration of the Tobacco Products Directive. The outgoing EU Health Commissioner had described to Euractiv how he wishes to see medicalisation of the products and his second in command had described vaping as “poison”. As we warned just last week, heading off these threats is going to be a priority in 2020, you can read why we take that view on our blog here.
Also in March, the NNA’s Gerry Stimson, Kevin Molloy and Jessica Harding took part in a trip to Malawi, Kenya and Nigeria to spread the message of harm reduction in Africa, meeting with representatives of the Campaign for Safer Alternatives in Africa and THR Malawi while there, while Louise Ross was filmed by Filter giving her thoughts about the real-life practicalities of harm reduction via vaping, and how she had changed her mind from being initially against but now very much in favour of e-cigarettes. You can watch the video on YouTube.
We got off to a flying start in April by writing a “Switch on to vaping plan” which you can read and download here. This was to coincide with the second annual UKVIA VApril campaign which launched on the 1st. Our Chair, Martin Cullip, spoke at the launch alongside TV’s Doctor Christian Jessen, and we wrote about why the campaign should be supported on our blog here.
Louise Ross was again seconding her thoughts to external websites by writing of how stop smoking services should be receptive to e-cigarettes to make harm reduction a success for their clients at the widely-read Ashtray Blog here, while also writing in support of e-cigarettes being sold in pharmacies in a debate-style piece for the Pharmaceutical Journal which you can read here.
In Hong Kong, the government conducted a consultation in April on whether to ban e-cigarettes outright. The NNA submitted a response warning that a significant proportion of the 570k UK tourists that visit Hong Kong every year might be at risk of jail simply for following advice from health organisations in the UK. You can read our full submission here.
As if that isn’t enough, Andy Morrison was also in attendance at the 5th annual Glasgow School of Vape and a delegation from the NNA went to Vape Jam at London’s Excel where Martin Cullip took part in an eventful panel debate on the main stage about responsible marketing.
The UKVIA’s second yearly Forum took place in May, addressed by Dr Christian Jessen and attended by two MPs – Labour’s Sir Kevin Barron and Conservative Mark Pawsey. NNA Chair Martin Cullip represented consumers on a panel entitled “Has the UK become vape unfriendly?”. Where he defended the use of e-cigarette use in private venues and raised the issue of poor advice on workplace policies on the Acas website, more on that later. We reported on the event on our blog here.
NNA Associate Terry Walker also blogged this month about his efforts at changing misguided vaping bans and how he has managed to engage with his local NHS Trust on educating them about how to treat e-cigarette use in line with government advice, which you can read here.
As usual, June was a busy month with many NNA Trustees, associates and supporters prominent at the sixth staging of the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw.
We hosted a press briefing on the importance of flavours in vaping liquids at the conference, our press release from which you can read here. 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. On the Thursday NNA Chair Martin Cullip also 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 star-studded panel on what good consumer advocacy should look like in advance of the World Health Organisation’s COP9 in The Hague next year which attracted so much interest that it was standing room only. Associate Andy Morrison also spoke, delivering his thoughts on 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. And to top all that off, we also presented a poster at the event describing our input to the VApril campaign earlier in the year.
Consumer meeting at the Global Forum on Nicotine
There was also good news in June that Acas had agreed to change their website advice about workplace vaping as a result of our highlighting the issue in May; Action on Smoking and Health released new data on the subject of underage vaping in the UK - which you can read here – and Martin Cullip delivered a presentation to the ENDS Conference in London where he expressed criticism of some approaches to policy currently being undertaken by vape businesses.
We were disappointed in July at some of the regulatory noises coming from both the WHO and the UK government.
The seventh “report on the global tobacco epidemic” from the World Health Organisation was released in this month and its only mention of harm reduction was to dismiss it as a concept fabricated by the tobacco industry. We issued a press release criticising the report’s adherence to myths and innuendo, suggesting that the WHO are taking an unhelpful ideological stance rather than one which could contribute to the outcomes they claim to want to achieve. You can read our valid critique of the WHO’s pitiful claims here.
Also in July, a government green paper containing recommendations towards vaping products was released. We felt that it was hastily drawn-up and described it as a “regulatory bull in a china shop approach” in our newsletter. We described on our blog here why the suggested proposals could “instantly remove the allure of safer products for many smokers.”.
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. 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.
August also saw our Vice Chair Louise Ross travel to Rio de Janeiro 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 reported that there was some opposition but “the audience when I talked about the UK experience were quietly encouraging”, which is a good reaction in a country where vaping is currently banned.
September was a pivotal month in 2019 as the cacophony of misinformation on what was causing an outbreak of respiratory illnesses in the US reached mainstream media in the UK. We wrote on our blog that “illegal oil-based THC liquids bought from unregulated vendors in America” were to blame and that UK smokers, vapers and their relatives should take the hysterical scare stories with a pinch of salt. The situation is entirely different in the UK as we explained in a blog entitled “nothing to see here”, click here to read it.
In September, we also announced that we were now 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. Since that day, ETHRA has been actively spreading the message of harm reduction in our region and now boasts 20 partner organisations across the continent. You can read the launch briefing – including a quote from the NNA – at this link.
The end of the month 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 and wrote about the report in our news section here.
Towards the end of the month, NNA representatives Andy Morrison, Dave Cross and Louise Ross debated with workshop attendees at the final Priorities Setting Partnership for e-cigarette research, and Martin Cullip took part in a panel debate at Labour Party Conference in Brighton alongside Sir Kevin Barron MP on the subject of “Does Brexit present new opportunities for the vaping industry?”.
October saw more party conference activity as NNA Associate Andy Morrison attended the Scottish National Party Conference in Aberdeen to comment on “Where next for vaping in Scotland” as part of a panel comprising two Members of the Scottish Parliament and a board member of the independent Vaporized vape shop chain.
Andy Morrison at the SNP conference
Some much-needed common sense from the USA on the harm reduction front was announced in this month too. The Federal Drugs Administration (FDA) issued a judgement that eight snus smokeless tobacco products can be marketed with the claim that they are less harmful than smoking. NNA Trustee, Mark Oates, explained why this is an encouraging development which should shame the EU into following suit in our press release which you can read here.
NNA Trustees were also active spreading the word in other countries with NNA Trustee Sarah Jakes taking part in a round-table discussion by Turkish broadcaster TRT World which tackled many of the recent misleading stories about vaping, and which you can view in full here.
Meanwhile, Louise Ross travelled to Paris to share the perspective of vape-friendly Stop Smoking Services, and the people who use them, at the third Sovape Sommet de la Vape conference. Her comments even earned an airing in renowned French socialite magazine Paris Match which you can read here.
In November, we wrote an open letter to London mayor Sadiq Khan after he spoke at the London General Assembly about reviewing rules on vape adverts on the London Underground system which you can read here. We highlighted that “vaping advertising is already prevalent on London buses, so it would seem consistent to also allow the same messages to be presented to travellers on tube trains too” and highlighting that the review should take into account that the Tobacco Control Plan for England recognised the benefits of smokers switching to e-cigarette.
We also found out in this month that Acas had, indeed, updated its advice on vaping in the workplace after our intervention at the UKVIA Forum in May. It is in no way perfect, but far better than it was previously. You can read the updated web page here.
Trustees were again active with NNA Trustee Mark Oates travelling to Sweden to address an event attended by a number of Swedish politicians on the subject “Politicians wouldn’t ban motorcycle helmets, so why do they ban safer nicotine products, such as snus?” You can read about Mark's talk in Snusforumnet, here and view the video here.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Vice Chair, Louise Ross, addressed the 7th E-cigarette Summit and gave a presentation entitled “I had given up giving up’ – how smokers have reacted to a new gateway out of smoking” which is available to view here, and also wrote a letter to the Guardian rejecting ill-informed assertions from a selection of misguided paediatric professionals which had been published previously. Martin Cullip also took part in a panel discussion at Vaper Expo in Birmingham on the threats to vaping which could result from the panic emanating from the US. The stage debate can be viewed in full at this link.
The last month of 2019 was taken up with the general election and – with government dissolved and civil servants stifled by purdah – opportunities to advocate were non-existent. It is clear, though, that we face some major threats in the coming year, and we will be needing your help. Please read our article explaining why “this is no time for complacency, there are real threats coming and we are going to need you to put yourselves out to protect your right to choose safer nicotine products” which you can visit at this link.
The same theme was conveyed by our three Trustees who contributed to the Ashtray Blog’s annual December predictions article for the coming year which you can read here. Martin Cullip warned “don’t ever be complacent enough to think the battle is won here. Be prepared to do your bit if rumoured threats become real.”, Louise Ross predicted that “vast amounts of time will be spent fire-fighting – in health arenas, in politics, in the media and directly with consumers.”, and Dave Cross said that “it is inevitable that we will face further coordinated demands to restrict flavours here.”.
2019 has been a sinister year but there are further threats to come, we need to be on our guard, and we will be needing a concerted effort from consumers everywhere in 2020. Please enjoy your New Year celebrations and come back refreshed and ready to fight for what we know is right.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
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