Yesterday I had the pleasure to join a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on electronic cigarettes, held in the Houses of Parliament. For those of you who don't know what an APPG is a group that can be made up of members of the House of Commons and Lords. These groups will meet with experts and professionals within the subject or country that they are discussing. These meetings allow campaign groups, charities and other non-governmental organisations to become involved in the discussion and help influence politicians. Last night many of the vaping community sat down and discussed with several members of the government the issue of E-Cigarettes and how things will progress in Great Britain in the future.
First up on the agenda was the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which we have previously talked about on the blog here. This is our main concern at the moment, being that it's implementation is coming very soon. Consultation will stop on the 3rd of September and the TPD will come into effect in May of next year. As of yet we don't know exactly when between those two dates we will be informed of how the current round of consultation on the TPD's implementation will have affected what happens to the ecig industry. We were also able to speak with one of the lawyers currently working on the Totally Wicked judiciary case against Article 20 of the TPD, the article that specifically relates to e-cigs. If this case is successful then TW will have shown that article 20 may not be put into effect and could overturn it completely. At the moment they are still awaiting a hearing date but are confident that it will be soon. Katherine Devlin of ECITA did make the worrying point, however, that the TW case could very well win, yet the EU and UK governments could still choose to ignore it and go ahead with Article 20 despite the court case.
Next up was talk on the American Thoracic Society's report on ecigs and the fear that many have as to whether children are being attracted to ecigs and whether children who try ecigs are likely to then move on to smoking tobacco. This was obviously quite a controversial report within the vaping community and it sparked some interesting debate at the APPG meeting as well. There is always this continuing argument that the flavours made for e-cigs such as a few of our own, flavours that resemble fruits and sweets, are aimed at children or at the very least will draw children on to electronic cigarettes. The idea that they are aimed at children is ridiculous and seems to make the claim that adults have no interest in these flavours, which we know for a fact is rubbish. A very god point was also made in regards to children trying ecigs and then moving to tobacco, that a child who has tried a sweet, candy-flavoured e-cigarette is hardly likely to then want to move onto an analogue cigarette with the foul taste of burning tobacco. The argument doesn’t really hold up. The worry with a lot of these reports and studies is that they are conducted by organisations that ask the wrong or leading questions to get the desired results. Some have asked people whether they have tried ecigs in the last few months, then when a yes is given, perhaps after the test subject tried one two months prior, they are put down as a regular vaper. Despite these practices, however, we are beginning to see more reputable people conducting proper studies and should hopefully see more of the right facts coming to people’s attention.
Certainly another big issue at the moment is that of vaping in public places and the bans that are being put into place in various buildings and institutions around the country. It was interesting being inside the Houses of Parliament where they had previously banned any use of ecigs. Even in a private office with no-one else there you are not allowed to use them. This shows a clear lack of foresight and disregard for the mountain of research and evidence to back up vaping in public spaces. The problem with their ban is that now many local councils and other associated organisations will follow their example in banning e-cigs completely and forcing vapers out with smokers. They are taking the framework that has been set-up for tobacco smoking and applying it where instead they should set up an entirely new framework.
That leads to the question of what the vaping framework should be. Is it unreasonable for an employer to ban ecig use on their premises? Well in this there is no right or wrong answer. As was pointed out at the meeting, there is currently not enough evidence to say whether the vapour from ecigs is completely harmless, though we do know that it is far less harmful than second hand smoke and in fact works in a completely different fashion. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable for some places not to want their air filled with vapour. Employers should also be able to expect an element of professionalism from their employees who vape. You wouldn’t expect to see someone smoking at the desk of hotel, for example, so why should they be vaping? Yet, the biggest concern is that the bans send a message to the public and smokers who wish to quit. They give the impression that there is something wrong with these products, that they’re dangerous and not to be trusted. We want to encourage smokers to move to a healthier alternative, not make them too afraid to quit. We also want to send a message to the public at large that they should applaud people they see vaping, not demonize them, thinking perhaps that vapour is as bad as second hand smoke, which it isn’t. There needs to be a correct balance drawn up and a framework set in place to help people understand that ecigs aren’t anything to fear. It is to the government that we look to for this and so far they have set a bad example.
We were also treated with a few words from Paul Hooper representing Warwickshire County Council Public Health and Lorien Jollye from the New Nicotine Alliance, but I shall talk more about what they had to say in a later post. Suffice to say that the meeting was very interesting and informative and I look forward to the next one in September where, hopefully, we shall have more information on Article 20 of the TPD and how it will affect us.