June was relatively quiet for the NNA with many trustees, associates and supporters converging on Warsaw for the fifth Global Forum on Nicotine, but there is still plenty to report. Here are just some of our activities in the past month.
Sliding into the news
Caitlin Notley of the University of East Anglia attracted a large amount of media attention in June with a study entitled “The unique contribution of e-cigarettes for tobacco harm reduction in supporting smoking relapse prevention”. The NNA helped with the study, which was recognised in the acknowledgements. In particular, the revelation that many smokers ‘slide’ into e-cigarette use without ever intending to – the accidental quitter phenomenon of which many of you will be well aware – gained column inches with both The Sun and Daily Mail reporting on how “vaping helps smokers quit even if they don’t want to”. Medical Express also carried the story and it went worldwide with articles in other countries such as France and Spain. We regularly emphasise to public health researchers that consumers such as the NNA should be involved in their studies to better understand the motivations of those who choose to use risk reduced nicotine products. This heightened media interest shows that taking such an approach can help researchers accurately reflect the nicotine market and, consequently, gain wider recognition.
Axe the tax
We may be leaving the EU (or maybe not, who knows?) but the NNA has been happy to add our support to an initiative working towards blocking an EU-wide tax on vaping products. The French consumer group SOVAPE has started a petition inviting vapers and other interested EU citizens to “Act now to stop the EU vape tax”, to which we are proud to lend our complete support, along with sixteen of the other EU consumer associations. At time of writing the petition has attracted around 8,000 signatures, so please sign it and share widely on social media channels. Let's send the message to the EU that taxation of products which are helping many people to switch from combustible tobacco is not acceptable.
You can access the petition by clicking here.
The consultation itself takes only around ten minutes to complete and we would urge you to respond to it, you can find it here:
Voicing on vapour
Vapour Voice and Vapouround magazines both featured articles on different aspects of harm reduction in June, and trustee Martin Cullip was quoted in both. Vapour Voice carried an article on the foolishness of banning flavours, as San Francisco has recently done, and which threatens to spread across America. Martin pointed out that the dog whistle use of children to drive the debate does not consider that public health authorities regularly find adults and children like the same kind of foods, and that “The wide variety of flavours helps distance adult vapers from their former smoking experience, so it is irresponsible to obstruct that over a largely irrational moral panic.”. Later in the month Vapouround ran a piece on the harm reduction experience in Japan, Sweden and the UK. Martin highlighted that there are different strokes for different folks and that a plethora of products should be made available. “One harm-reduced product or one type of harm-reduced product just won’t cut it,” he said. “That would be like asking everyone who likes a tipple to just drink beer”. You can view the latest issue of Vapour Voice here and of Vapouround here.
Polished in Poland
As mentioned last month, NNA representatives were prominent at the Global Forum on Nicotine, held in Warsaw in mid-June. Sarah Jakes’ plenary presentation has been published on our blog here along with Martin Cullip’s introductory remarks prior to a plenary debate about who we should trust in the nicotine debate, which you can read here. We also published our overall thoughts on the event here and displayed a poster to delegates on the snus case on which we intervened. You can view videos of the filmed sessions at this YouTube link.
Louise Ross, Derek Yach and Martin Cullip at the "Who can we trust?"plenary debate at the GFN
Parrots mean prizes
This year’s GFN featured a film festival for the first time and we are thrilled to report that the NNA had a hand in the winning entry. The National Centre for Smoking Cessation Training (NCSCT) produced a humorous film in April entitled “Passive Vaping: A guide for parrots” in partnership with the NNA. The film won the ultimate accolade of Best Film at the festival, with the award being collected by NNA Chair Sarah Jakes and NNA associate Louise Ross. Best Director and Best New Director awards were won by a crowd-funded film led by French consumer organisation Aiduce and a film student from the UK respectively. You can view the winning film at the NCSCT’s YouTube channel here.
Louise Ross and Sarah Jakes collecting the Best Film award from Aaron Biebert
Ask the experts
NNA trustee Andy Morrison has taken part in many research programmes in the last few years, including research with CRUK and Oxford University and has now taken on a role of mentor in a new study on harm reduction opportunities for the homeless.
Researchers have found that their efforts are often not as successful as expected in this field. They have previously used inappropriate equipment for people switching from smoking to vaping, and not paid enough attention to the needs and motivations of smokers wishing to quit. Andy will be contributing his expertise to a feasibility study into the use of electronic nicotine devices with homeless populations in Dublin, in particular advising on the appropriate kit to recommend and the way to best incentivise differing options. This is important research and we are pleased that Andy has been invited to give the all-too-often overlooked vapers' perspective.
Sense and the city
NNA trustee David MacIntosh writes a regular blog for City Health International – a movement looking at making structural improvements to ecological health in city environments – and has this to say about tobacco harm reduction options in his latest contribution:
“Over the last few years we have seen a new phenomenon emerge, vaping. This is arguably one of the greatest contributions to reducing smoking we have seen in many years and, with the honourable exceptions of Public Health England and a few far sighted individual areas and practitioners, it has occurred outside the realm of traditional tobacco control. While there are other tobacco harm reduction products with an impressive pedigree, look at the Swedish experience of snus (and please do look this up), this is geographically limited to Scandinavia. Vaping is a global phenomenon which has unsettled the established order."
You can read the whole article at the City Health website here.
Tomorrow’s news today
The UK Parliament's Science and Technology Committee report is expected to be published in late July. Sarah Jakes gave evidence to the proceedings alongside trade bodies the UKVIA and IBVTA. Sarah urged politicians to redouble their commitment towards harm reduction, and to build on the convincing evidence of the benefits of risk-reduced nicotine products, especially with Brexit on the horizon. We hope that the committee has taken our comments on board and are optimistic that the report will be positive.
This isn’t the end of the NNA’s involvement in Westminster. The All Party Parliamentary Group on E-cigarettes will be holding its next meeting about vaping regulation post-Brexit on July 11th, and NNA Chair Sarah Jakes will be speaking at the event. We will be sure to let you know how it goes so keep an eye on the blog.
Additionally, trustee John Summers has been elected onto the board of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) as their treasurer. The NNA has had great success in the UK and we are very pleased that John is on board to help advise on how good practice can lead to favourable results in other jurisdictions as well.
John Summers with INNCO's Nancy Sutthoff and Kim Dabelstein
What can you do to help?
Please remember that NNA trustees give their time for free, and we rely on your generous donations to continue to ensure consumer voices are heard. 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.
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.