Oh, and no, it is not a typo, 'Fnools' will be explained in part 2.
Let me start by saying a Thank you to Public Health England. Whatever we might think or have thought about them, they did not have to to invite us into their space. Yes of course they should do, there are lots of things that should have happened, but that does not mean they have or will. I am genuinely grateful that we were given a seat and a voice. The agenda for the day, including speakers can be found here. Probably worth a quick look before starting this.
The best summary of the Public Health England Symposium, from our perspective, is this video here. Dave Dorn and myself were both present for the entire day, Oliver Kershaw was a guest panelist in the afternoon session. The link will take you to the VTtalk show we did together with Sav, on Sunday 18th May. I highly suggest you watch it if you have not already.
All in all, this was positive stuff. Very positive. Given the similarities between the pro-ecig, pro-harm reduction people speaking, I will give an overview.
Tobacco control have made NO effort to utilise Harm Reduction. They are failing smokers; specifically smokers in manual professions and those suffering with mental illness.
|Slide from Anne McNeill presentation.|
However, the impact that e-cigs are having are unprecedented. In 30 years, Anne McNeill had seen nothing like this happen. This year we have seen a leveling out of e-cigarette use in ALL socioeconomic groups.
|This might be stuff that we realise, but from a PH perspective, this is dreams coming true! Slide from McNeill presentation.|
Allowing NRT to be sold Over The Counter without the behavioural support offered by cessation services was a mistake. A mistake that cost lives.
Disallowing Europeans the option of Snus as Harm Reduction was a mistake. A mistake that cost lives. The success of snus in Sweden comes from the easy availability. Smokers are making a choice at the point of sale.
|Snus in action. From John Britton presentation.|
Tobacco Control and Public Health are being misinformed and misled by poor peer review and Press releases of studies that do not reflect the data contained within the study itself.
E-cigs are being subjected to unjustified panic led scrutiny. If this same scrutiny were to be applied to Plain Packaging, it would not be going ahead!
If the entire population used Nicotine the health impacts would be negligible. The health implications of nicotine use in pregnant women is of 'no significant concern'. NRT has had NO impact in this area (Most recently shown here).
'These things need to be available anywhere tobacco is', in fact, they need to be everywhere. Marketing needs to be clever, aimed at adults and promoting vaping. 'Social media marketing is essential'. It is entirely possible that Public Health have scored an own goal by allowing advertising to be solely from a lifestyle product perspective.
The media coverage has been hysterical and disproportionate. 'Diabetics and suffers of Heart Disease are now too frightened to use e-cigs'.
'Peoples lives are at stake.'
'No renormalisation of smoking, only normalisation of vaping.'
'The evidence is going the opposite way to what PH and TC are saying.'
'E-cigs are already having the desired effect.'
And finally, this point was made by Martin Dockrell, with passion and very pointedly at every individual present in the room. It was an instruction.
'Talk to vapers!'
All of the above may look like common sense to us. This is what we have been shouting about for all this time. We know all this. But, NONE of this was said by us. This came from Robert West, Anne McNeill, Martin Dockrell and John Britton. The frustration was palpable. The irritation at the risk aversion coming from within their own field. The above might not look all that significant, or unusual, because it's what we already know. But it is! Yes, they have safety concerns. Yes, they want to understand what is causing toxins; is it the fluid or the heating? Yes, they are concerned about poor nicotine delivery from substandard devices putting people off.
Aren't we concerned about these things too?
Are these concerns enough to stop this in it's tracks?
Our answer? No!
Their answer? No!
But, my favourite picture from the entire day. The moment that made me say 'Shit - they've got it! They've finally got it!' and grab Dave Dorn's arm, was this from John Britton, and the caption is his, not mine.
|NRT does not do this.|
A happy smiling smoker. An attractive, normal woman. Smoking. They admitted that NRT just is not going to cut it. It has an image problem. He looks at us with our vibrant and strong community and then states 'There is no NRT community' to the room - and the room laughed!
Now this is all very positive, and a mere shapshot of the great bits from the day. There is more, of course there is more, but I am going to put it into part 2. It is a bit more...uh...ranty...
I will close this part with this...WE were a part of this change. Our persistence, our knowledge and our passion. We have not shut up and it looks like it is finally working. If for even a single second you think that it has all been for nothing, you are wrong. It has taken a long time, we are exhausted and the battle is still not over, but I think we all deserve a MASSIVE pat on the back. A year ago we were staring defeat in the face. The obliteration of all of this. I have lost count of the amount of times I have found somewhere quiet in my house to sit and cry where my children can't hear me. The sheer overwhelming frustration that They are just not getting it, they are not listening and are ignoring the impact of what they are trying to do.
Well that might be changing and we have played a huge part in that. Now the data is showing that we were right and they want to listen.
Part two coming shortly - and it is cross.