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The E-Cigarette Summit - another view

Went to the E-Cigarette Summit at the Royal Society in London on Tuesday.

I anticipated an informative but dry and probably humourless event with the focus on the product rather than the consumer.

How wrong I was.

One or two sessions had me struggling to stay awake but overall it was far more interesting (and entertaining) than I expected.

Any concern that the event would become a vehicle for tobacco control to set the agenda on e-cigs was quickly dispelled.

Public health campaigners were out in force but the e-cig community was well represented too.

According to a summary of attendees, delegates were split into three groups: commercial, not-for-profit, consumer and media (a rather odd pairing).

The biggest groups were the commercial and not-for-profit organisations. The former were categorised as tobacco, pharmaceutical, e-cigarette and financial/marketing/investment.

Of these four groups the e-cig industry had the most delegates, followed by Big Pharma, financial/marketing/investment, and Big Tobacco.

There was also a strong international flavour to the event with delegates from across Europe and America.

The speakers and panellists were reasonably well balanced between those who favour the precautionary principle and those who want light touch regulation to encourage the development of the new technology.

Not every opinion was represented. Those who believe that all long-term nicotine use should be stopped or discouraged had either stayed away or were keeping very quiet.

I won't bore you with all the health stuff but it's safe to say that those who did attend agreed that e-cigs offer a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. Beyond that the discussion got a bit more heated.

Jeremy Mean, a mild mannered civil servant who works for the MHRA which wants to medicinalise e-cigs, took the brunt of people's frustration that the product might be regulated disproportionately.

Nicotine, he argued, is "medicinal by function". The idea that nicotine - an addictive but largely harmless drug - should be treated as a stimulant much like caffeine didn't impress him.

Although Mean and the MHRA received sustained criticism, the only really sour note of the day came from Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, who tore into the tobacco companies with the help of selected quotes and an advertisement that were decades old.

It was fun however to watch her squabble with Clive Bates, her predecessor at ASH and now a leading advocate of e-cigs.

As soon as Clive finished his own presentation Deborah was on her feet pointing out that she, not he, was the current head of ASH. It's something she clearly feels prickly about.

I've had my differences of opinion with Clive but I've always respected him and he was impressive again on Tuesday.

He was the only key speaker who showed real passion for the product, and concern for the consumer – "Nothing meets the needs of all smokers", "These are real people", and so on.

Oddly enough I used the same line, "These are real people", in a presentation on consumers' rights last week. Perhaps we should get together and launch a consumer group for smokers and vapers. I don't smoke and Clive doesn't vape. Perfect.

E-cigarettes, he added, are "disruptive" to the tobacco industry but they are also disruptive to the public health industry because the product challenges their "anti-corporate bias" and their "model of tobacco control".

He was clearly enjoying himself.

In contrast to her predecessor's ebullient performance there were times when Deborah seemed to be chewing on a wasp seasoned with lemon.

Her presentation included a tobacco advertisement featuring a good looking man and a beautiful woman. The man was holding a cigarette and the caption read, 'Blow in her face and she'll follow you anywhere'.

I'm not sure what response Deborah was hoping to get (a sharp intake of breath, perhaps, or shocked silence) but that line got one of the biggest laughs of the day.

If the E-Cigarette Summit was about the future someone really should have told Deborah. She and ASH are stuck in the past, fighting battles with the tobacco companies that are well past their sell-by date.

As for those pesky e-cigs, they are potentially highly addictive, she warned. Toxic too. And they could renormalise smoking.

She doesn't want to ban them but ASH want e-cigs advertised to smokers only. (How's that going to work?)

Honestly, when Deborah is in this mood I wouldn't want to be stuck in a lift with her.

As it happens I bumped into her very briefly at lunch. She expressed mock surprise that I was at a conference on "harm reduction".

I tried to explain that I was there because a lot of smokers (who don't want to quit) use e-cigs when they're not allowed to light up – in pubs and other enclosed public places – but I don't think she was listening.

In her mind, and those of many tobacco control campaigners, e-cigs have one use only – as a smoking cessation aid. The idea that someone might want to smoke and/or vape for pleasure is anathema to them.

It's anathema to many vapers too. Lorien Raine, representing the Electronic Cigarette Consumer Association (ECCA), declared that smoking tobacco in public is now completely "inappropriate".


Lorien was responding to a complaint by a public health worker who said she felt ill as a result of people vaping in the conference room.

The guy sitting directly in front of me was vaping, but discreetly. Two rows further forward however a man with an enormous handlebar moustache was exhaling significant clouds of vapour.

The public health worker said that exposure to the vapour (passive vaping?) had given her a headache and the smell had made her nauseous.

I was closer than her to the vapers. I got the faintest whiff from the guy sitting in front of me, and nothing from the man with the handlebar moustache.

As for the vapour, it disappeared within seconds of being exhaled, much like tobacco smoke although the slight fug one associates with tobacco smoke was entirely absent.

A comment that deserved a response but didn't get one (because no-one apart from me seemed to hear it) was uttered by Professor Robert West, director of tobacco studies for Cancer Research.

According to West, the "advent of new technology" should make us consider the "other side of the coin". He didn't use the word (they rarely do) but I'm certain he meant prohibition.

In other words, if there is a safer alternative to smoking tobacco, why would governments allow tobacco to remain legal?

As I say, no-one questioned him on this but it wouldn't surprise me if the idea came up again. In fact, if you were an e-cigarette company you might actively lobby for just such an outcome.

Anyway, it was a very well-organised event that attracted a wide range of interested parties and some interesting speakers.

What interests me is how those parties will move forward. Will they split down traditional lines or will new alliances develop?

We know tobacco control is divided on e-cigs, but smokers and vapers are too (more's the pity).

I suspect that new alliances will emerge. Watch this space.

PS. Quote of the day came from "e-cig aficionado" David Dorn:

"Every smoker is different ... every vaper is also different".

To prove his point about vapers he invited those in the audience to hold aloft the device they use to vape.

A small sea of hands went up and each one was clasping a completely different device.

Over-regulate or medicinalise e-cigs, said Dorn, and you'll destroy innovation because small e-cig companies won't have the resources to research, develop and get a license to sell every device they invent.

See also: E-cigarette summit (Velvet Glove Iron Fist), E-cigarette summit review (Ashtray Blog)

Update: Lorien has responded in the comments below.

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Reader Comments (24)

Many thanks for that excellent summary of the event.
It draws attention to the question:"What has ASH got to do with ecigs?" Ecigs are none of ASH's business. They do not involve tobacco at all. Why was Arnott there? It is none of her business. She has nothing to say about the matter. It is not her concern.
Sooner or later, people must throw out the Zealots. Remember that the "Framework Convention" says nothing about ecigs. Ecigs are not a concern for Arnott. She, as an official from ASH, ought not to be involved. Ecigs have nothing to do with ASH since they are not tobacco.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 3:17 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

I.a.w. Mr. Mean nicotine is "medicinal by function".
No, Mr Mean... It is not! :)

A "medicinal by function" MUST heal something! Nicotine heals nothing... so it is not a "medicinal by function"!

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 8:56 | Unregistered CommenterRursus

Thank you for your summary of the day. but I do just want to defend something. My point re smoking in public was that they have done so much damage to the image of smoking that they've turned smoking and so smokers into social pariahs, something I utterly disagree with and when I smoked was subjected to continually.

There is clearly a concerted effort to apply the same social manipulation to vapers and I guess I regret not having had the strength or gumption, when I smoked, to fight as I do now as a vaper.

Further to that. my point was to highlight the absurdity of the renormalisation argument. The have been so thorough in their demonisation of smokers that it's patently absurd to suggest the two habits can be mistaken for one another inside a building.

I felt sure I said things that were more important so it saddens me to see that this misconstrued comment stood out for you.

My apologies for not being clearer.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 11:01 | Unregistered CommenterLorien

I'm on the side of vapers who recognise that some smokers enjoy smoking tobacco and they will never go onto e-cigs as an alternative.

I get a bit fed up with the obnoxious E Cigs Save Lives logo and unless it gets dropped, vapers cannot complain if their product of choice is mistaken for a medicine and regulated as such.

The only problem with this kind of event is that there is no one to speak for smokers and too many vapers are happy to see them silenced so that they can speak for them - and obviously say that they all want to (or should be forced to) go on E Cigs when we don't.

However, as Chris Snowden noticed, vape consumers are currently banned from the high table of righteous decision making which only the hallowed Debs and Co are invited to sit at. Vapers should know by now that grass roots tobacco consumers have long since been banned from that table and the tobacco template is being used against them too.

E Cig companies are the new luvvies, and they have everything to gain by trying to force smokers onto their product by jumping aboard the anti-smoker bandwagon and getting into bed with the antis and destroying their competitors in the tobacco industry.

In truth, neither their vape cloud nor our wisp of smoke is harmful to others but some can be irritated by it - especially if they have a psychological phobic tendency to suddenly feel ill at the very sight of something that looks like a cigarette.

Stick the bigots and snobs next to a BBQ and they have no problem with smoke at all.

If vapers want us to work together, then maybe it would be good if they invited us to events such as these. After all, I had no idea it was on. I might have attended had I known. It seems smokers are also excluded from vaping events as well as everywhere else. And I still wait for smokers to be invited to the vape fest - it's probably never going to happen. We're just not good enough in their eyes.

In short, smokers can work with vapers. But would vapers want to sully themselves by association? I think not.

We are not in in together. Mostly, vapers are in it for themselves and they know that beating up tobacco consumers is trendy, and popular, and will win them friends like the smokerphobic Rachel Taylor MEP who does believe all smokers should be forced to quit via e-cigs.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 12:33 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

If Lorien Raine said that, ECCA has gone down in my estimation. On their website it says they are not against smoking. Perhaps someone from ECCA could clarify what its views on smoking in public are? I have tweeted them to ask.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 13:01 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

As someone who predominantly vapes these days (although I still really enjoy a few cigarettes) like so many people I too find the self-righteousness of some vapers to be nauseating and hypocritical, added to which there is a distinct tendency amongst some to be nanny state too. However, what they (we vapers) all need to remember is that the e-cig industry is entirely parasitic on smokers as is, in fact, tobacco control. So no smokers, no e-cig industry! Just bear that in mind all e-cigers and be grateful to the people who give you life!

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 14:21 | Unregistered CommenterBlad Tolstoy

I have to question why you would need to be invited to vapefest or indeed any of the the smaller local meet ups that go on around the country? these events are all free and open to anyone who wants to come. smoker, non-smoker, ex-smoker, vaper or even a duel fueler (both vaper and smoker) you would be assured of a warm welcome at any of these events.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 14:22 | Unregistered CommenterMark Jones

I was at the summit and whilst I can't remember word for word what Lorien said I am as certain as I can be that she did not say that smoking in public is inappropriate. The gist of what she said was that it was the lady's conditioning to believe that it was inappropriate which had lead her to get a headache at the mere sight of someone vaping. I know Lorien and I know that, like me, she supports smokers' rights to choose.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 15:37 | Unregistered CommenterTwiglet

A good read , I attended the Summit also . I am a vaper who converted from 40/day over 45 years to something that works better for me in satisfying my nicotine enjoyment .

I speak purely for myself I would and have defended smokers rights to enjoy their cigarettes, to do otherwise would be hypocritical after my own long term use .

My position is not one of appeasement and would hope that mutual interests in defending our rapidly disappearing liberties would overcome suspicions on both sides.

I would imagine that a good % of vapers may have similar views to not demonising smokers , a vocal few may put out some thoughtless comment that is immediately seized upon ( no not Lorien!) but that would not be representative of the majority of Vapers

Summarising the conference , huge commonsense from Etter, Flauhaut ,even West . Dross from Arnott , mediocrity from Mean . Clive Bates presentation and impact was what I consider the most telling of the whole day , I can testify that three NHS SSS people I chatted to afterwards were in full agreement .

Lorien from ECCA_UK sat in the last panel of experts and far from being daunted produced an excellent series of ripostes and replies to questions posed.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 15:38 | Unregistered CommenterAlanB

It's really a two-edged sword when vapers ally with smokers. On the one hand, almost every vaper is a former smoker (often a heavy smoker and for many years) and on the other hand, most vapers wish to distance themselves from their former habit. The big advantage of vaping is that it is largely accepted or tolerated by the non-smoking community. This is largely because vapour hardly smells, disperses quickly and there is no tar to smell on your clothes or stain curtains and ceilings etc. Other less apparent advantages are that the breath of a vaper equates to the breath of a non-smoker (ask the wife or husband etc. and presuming regular oral and dental hygiene). In other words, there are so many differences between smokers and vapers that the only common denominator is, in most cases, the enjoyment of nicotine. Vapers certainly don't want to be seen siding with Big Tobacco and/or Big Pharma as they have nothing in common with either as far as vaping is concerned.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 16:31 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Fletcher

To the 2 posts slanging off vapers..the problem has far as i see it is that with regulation of ecigs they would not be freely available or has many choices compared to tobacco cigarettes which is a disgrace when everybody on this planet knows how dangerous they are but are unregulated and contain anything tobacco co"s want to put in them.Vapers are just trying to get the point over that there is safer alternative out there that is just has enjoyable with none of the over 4000 dangerous chemicals in them.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 16:58 | Unregistered Commentermichael jones

Thanks for coming on here and explaining Lorien. I appreciate it and I'm sure others do.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 17:36 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

It would be good in my opinion that the author either correct his interpretation of lorien' s comment at the summit or at least note she has responded above. The article above is tainted by a poor or accidental misrepresentation of what was actually said or intended which only serves the ANTZ and their hangers on. Other than that this article is rather good.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 17:50 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Barton


I really enjoyed reading this summary. Thank you for taking the time to write it and share it. I am a former smoker and now a vaper. I did not intend to quit smoking, it just happened. I find that flavored vapor tastes better than smoke. I don't think there is a big enough difference between vapers and smokers for the two not to pull together a fight for a common cause. This is all really about rights and people have to stand up to anyone who is trying to impose their personal values and standards on everyone else. First it's cigarettes, then the size of a soft drink, then its french fries, then its how late you are allowed to stay up. Come on, this is supposed to be a free country. Stand up for freedom of choice!

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 19:27 | Unregistered Commentercatvapes

"most vapers wish to distance themselves from their former habit."

I thought the main reason was cost, that vaping was cheaper. The same reason that many smokers gave up years ago without the moral baggage. It's only recently that 'health' has become a good excuse.

Maybe I'm just being mercenary but, then, maybe not. It never helps the people ignore the obvious.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 20:43 | Unregistered CommenterFrank J

For me, swapping to e-cigarettes, had nothing to do with cost. It had everything to do with health. Obviously it's a positive that the cost of e-liquid is less per puff then that of a monologue cigarette, but adding years to my life and no longer smelling like an ashtray far out ranks any economic consideration. The fact that I can also enjoy my nicotine in a lovely zesty orange flavoured vape is honestly the best thing to happen to someone who didn't want to get rid of the habit, only to eliminate the dangers related to said habit. I never quit smoking, I simply started vaping. Leaving the cigarettes behind was just a side effect of a superior delivery system.

Thank you for a great write up of the summit, have been trying to read up on everything I can come across regarding the meet.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 22:32 | Unregistered CommenterLene

As a smoker who mainly uses electronic cigarettes, I would like to offer an open invitation to any smoker, but particularly Pat Nurse to attend one (or more) of the many 'Vape Meets' that are now happening regularly around the country.

The majority of ecig users are 'smokers', as in, they think like smokers, they laugh like smokers, they interact like smokers and they would welcome smokers with open arms to discuss the issues being raised here.

There is NO reason why there could not be an alliance of the two - apart from apathy.

There is a need for this to happen soon, otherwise the 'spoke in the works' of the anti-'smokers' (ie ecigs - a tool to renormalise smokers) will be either regulated out of existence or restricted to ineffective bland Blair land. Once that happens, smokers will be marginalised even more.

As smokers, we lost to out to junk science in the perception of the majority of people. However, by supporting ecigs, we can show the anti-smoking industry for what it really is - but we only have a short period of time to do so.

It's time to work together.

Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 22:46 | Unregistered CommenterRussell VR Ord

You see, with the best will in the world, I CANNOT accept the opinion of 'Lene' (bless him or her) as more than ephemeral. What does 'smelling like an ashtray' mean? And why did he/she put up with 'smelling like an ashtray' for years and years? In any case, why was he/she sniffing ashtrays? Those receptacles are not scent bottles. Further, I have just sniffed my ashtray and the fragrance is quite pleasant! This reminds me of comments that I have seen about 'kissing a smoker is like kissing an ashtray". How would people who say that know what 'kissing an ashtray' is like unless they had gone around kissing ashtrays?
And then there is: "...but adding years to my life...." Erm... NO! Well, not necessarily. I hate to say this, but statistics are emerging which seem to show that ex-smokers are presenting with lung cancer more than continuing smokers. But don't worry! If you believe, and it cheers you up, then it is quite possible that your improved, long-lasting mood will extend your life by a few seconds, hours, days, weeks, etc. You might even live long enough to become senile, incontinent, and a serious drain on the NHS.
I'm sorry to be so harsh, Lene, but when anyone says 'smelling like an ashtray', or 'like kissing an ashtray', I see ASH ET AL PROPAGANDA. You should worry, since the next pogrom will be 'stinking like an ecig'.

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 2:56 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Quite right Junican!

I never knew what smelling like an ashtray was supposed to mean. My dad smoked plain and filter for about 74 years, and when he died in 2010, he didn’t die of lung cancer or any ‘smoking related’ disease. My mother smoked plain and filter for about 62 years, and when she died last May she didn’t die of lung cancer or any ‘smoking related’ disease.

But you know the strangest thing was, in all the time I lived with my parents, they never once smelled like ashtrays’…why do you suppose that was?

In fact if you blindfolded anyone and put a full ashtray in front of them – they would be hard pressed to know one was there in the first place.

The art of brain washing – a wonderful thing eh?

PS What’s a smoking related disease? Is it a disease that only smokers get but non-smokers are immune from?

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 7:30 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Lene: You've swallowed the gunge, hook, line and sinker and this is why smokers like me find it difficult to have common ground with some vapers. I'd expect an opinion like yours to come from a raving anti.It's a great shame.

Y'see, some of us don't swallow the exaggerated propaganda, half truths and lies and only look at e-cigs as a means of being able to smoke in some pubs. As they improve in consistency, maybe it'll be different but at the moment, they've still a way to go.

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 7:49 | Unregistered CommenterFrank J

Well someone felt their opinions were being attacked on the internet. Here, have a tissue.

It's fact that your ability to smell new scents improves when you stop smoking. It's also a fact that to many, smoke and ash and cigarette butts do not smell of roses but in fact, smell like ashtray. Personally I find this scent offensive, always did. Always smoked out doors, even when I was at home.

I also don't like the smell of smoke on others. It is my right to have this opinion. If you don't agree, that's fine. You have the right to your opinion too.

As far as prolonging my life goes, you do not know what ailments I may suffer from. So yes, dropping the monologue cigarettes prolonged my life. It was not a generalisation for the world of people who leave the cigarettes behind, it was about me, in my post.

I don't have a problem with people smoking. I am not anti-smoking at all. I was merely stating what e-cigarettes have done for me. If people want to keep smoking, more power to them. I did not.

Friday, November 15, 2013 at 13:15 | Unregistered CommenterLene

With the best will in the world, it is not possible for you to say that ecigs have prolonged your life. If you are alive, then you are not dead yet. The reason that you are not dead yet is because you are still alive. It is a circular argument. The only situation in which you can claim that your life was 'saved' is when you were in imminent danger of death, for example, from drowning.
If you believe the spin from Charlatans claiming to be 'Experts', it is possible that your life my be extended somewhat - or it might not.
The main thing is that it is more likely that your contentment will extend your life (or not) rather than the blandishments of the charlatans.

Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 1:11 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

@Alan Fletcher

"The big advantage of vaping is that it is largely accepted or tolerated by the non-smoking community"

A dangerously complacent attitude to take.

Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 22:05 | Unregistered CommenterDick Puddlecote

The enormous playing point of vaping is that it is to a great extent acknowledged or endured by the non-smoking neighborhood"

Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 10:15 | Unregistered Commenterjames mike

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