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« Life and times of a dedicated smoker | Main | Liberty and lobbying »

Why I'm not attending today's E-Cigarette Summit

Are any readers at the E-Cigarette Summit in London today?

I went to the first one, two years ago, and wrote about it here (The E-Cigarette Summit: another view). I was quite positive.

Last year I considered going again but when I looked at the list of speakers it was pretty much the same as the year before and heaven knows there are only so many times I can listen to Deborah Arnott without jumping off a bridge.

This year I received several emails inviting me to attend at a cost of £350 (plus VAT) and I was tempted until I saw that not only were the usual anti-smoking suspects speaking (again), but they were now joined by the likes of Andrea Crossfield (Tobacco Free Futures) and Prof John Britton (UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies).

Frankly (and I don't care how good the biscuits are), the thought of spending a whole day being lectured by one anti-smoking activist after another is too much.

To be fair the organisers have made some effort to include consumers on the platform but, inevitably, they've invited only ex-smokers who represent 40 per cent of the e-cigarette market.

To the best of my knowledge there won't be a single dual user speaking, despite the fact that they represent 60 per cent of e-cig users.

I also sense a slightly patronising attitude towards the vapers who are speaking. With one exception they have been put in sessions where they are sharing the platform with four or five other panellists so their contributions will be limited to say the least.

In contrast John Britton has been parachuted in and given his own session. Ditto Andrea Crossfield who will be talking about 'E-Cigarettes: Practitioners Views, Beliefs, Experiences and Concerns'.

Now I've known Andrea for several years (and like her) but to the best of my knowledge she's not a 'practitioner'. She's a full-time, state-funded anti-tobacco campaigner. Surely that session could have been given by Lorien Jollye or Sarah Jakes of the New Nicotine Alliance?

The session that stands out for me takes place this afternoon, when Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, asks, 'Can e-cigarettes be part of the endgame for tobacco?'.

As you know, the RSPH wants to ban smoking outside pubs in order to force smokers to quit or use e-cigarettes instead. Well, according to the programme, the session will tackle the following issues:

How can public health policy harness the opportunity that e-cigarettes offer and pave the way for a brave new public health strategy to end the smoking epidemic? The opportunity now exists to further limit access to smoking and as part of harm reduction efforts support smokers onto safer forms of nicotine, including e-cigarettes. With safer alternatives in place, is the time right to consider the removal of nicotine from cigarettes and eventually move towards a public ban on combustible tobacco products?

The audience at the E-Cigarette Summit tends to be a combination of public health workers (whose places are no doubt paid for by the taxpayer), tobacco and Big Pharma executives, and members of the ex-smoking vaping community.

If I was present (or a fly on the wall), I'd be interested to hear what Cramer has to say. (Hopefully her presentation will go online after the event.)

I'd be curious too to see who (if anyone) has the bottle to challenge talk of a public ban on combustible tobacco products as well as further limiting 'access to smoking'.

I'd like to think that one or two of my vaping buddies will have the courage to say something. Sadly, the most likely outcome is, "I would rather not talk about tobacco, to be honest."

One final point. A couple of months ago, in a spirit of constructive criticism, I suggested a panel featuring an ex-smoking vaper, a dual user, a heat not burn practitioner, and a committed smoker. It would be interesting, I thought, to get a range of consumer perspectives.

I also said the E-Cigarette Summit could benefit from some industry participation. After all, moving forward, Big Tobacco has a major role to play and it would be interesting to hear what developments are in the pipeline.

It would also allow vapers to vent their anger and frustration at what some see as BT's less than helpful stance on e-cig regulation (in the USA in particular). That would be quite a lively session.

We know why Big Tobacco isn't represented on the platform, though, don't we? Many of the anti-tobacco campaigners invited to speak would refuse to take part.

And so, instead of helping to create the widest possible network dedicated to harm reduction, the E-Cigarette Summit resembles just another public health convention – and, boy, do we need another one of those.

Anyway, if anyone is at the E-Cig Summit today and would like to comment, I'd be pleased to hear from you.

I do have an open mind (honest!). Experience however has taught me to be cynical about tobacco control. Sorry.

Update: I can't speak highly enough of this article – do read: One cheer for the E-Cigarette Summit (Action on Consumer Choice).

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Reader Comments (12)

Experience has taught me to be cynical about vapers too. The New Nicotine Alliance is grossly offensive to smokers as we are the only nicotine consumers to be excluded from this "we're not filthy dirty addicted smokers" group of ex- smokers, and like the former smokers and smokerphobics in tobacco control and political lobby groups like ASH, I get mightily fed up of that sort silencing smokers and then purporting to speak for them.

Vapers are not smokers so please do us a favour and shut up about smoking and smokers. Peddle your new hobby on the back of its merits - not on the back of bashing something other people are quite happy with.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 11:52 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Morning Simon, want a speaker? I'll speak on behalf of all daleks & tell them exactly what they are doing to this countries feelgood factor, its finances & its freedom of choice/expression situations! They'd love an ex smoker on the platform but not this one :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 12:11 | Unregistered CommenterPhil J

I have long argued that the Vaping and Smoking communities could be mutually supportive. Talking to individual Vapers this is the case. However since the influx of Tobacco Control and Public Health Professionals it would seem at the level it counts, only the anti-smoking view is being presented.

How Vapers attend a summit that includes " 'Can e-cigarettes be part of the endgame for tobacco?'." and still support individual freedom to use nicotine products is beyond be. [ok Pat you told me so :)]

Is it worth my while suggesting Vaping is an interim step. At first seen as a threat now used as an opportunity to advance the goal of first a Tobacco Free then Nicotine Free world? I'm not even sure that the echelons of the Vaping community understand how Vapers are being absorbed into the hive mind of Tobacco Control by supporting the dehumanising of *people* who smoke.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 13:44 | Unregistered Commenterwest2

I always find it amusing when something bills itself as a "summit" but then:

(a) Fails to include all the players, as you note -- kind of like the recent summit about Syria that did not include any Syrians.

(b) Does not include the principal voices from most of the players who are represented, or at least does not feature them, making it a conference rather than a summit.

(c) Is really a series of lectures/seminars with a bit of time to actually do what summits do (meet and discuss).

Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 15:22 | Unregistered CommenterCarl V Phillips

I sometimes wonder whether these anti smoking morons are on a different planet to me. Out in the provinces where I live there are as many people smoking proper tobacco and thoroughly enjoying it as well. People vape in pubs all the time, and why shouldn't they ?
Is it only a London thing that people give any credence to health fascist doctors and people from publicly funded anti smoking pressure groups. Its an absolute disgrace that these people are funded by taxpayers.
Smokers pay far too much tax already and its not surprising to me that people try to obtain supplies from non UK sources.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 16:53 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

. here is a health message based on the cod-epidemiological methods favoured by the health nuts. Havana cigar smokers live longer than non-smokers; therefore we nee an NHS campaign to encourage more people to smoke cigars

Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 17:29 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

The 'Ecig Summit' is not summat that normal folk who enjoy life should have anything to do with - It's all Political, anti-Society Bollocks.

I'm a vaping smoker and I value my choice to be that; over any Political, Scientific, Epidemiological (Code for Bullsh@t) exercise, dressed up in the 'Let's help people who smoke' genre.

It's nowt to do with smoking, smokers or vapers - It's about control and manipulation and I'm not playing their game anymore.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 22:06 | Unregistered CommenterRussell VR Ord

I'd be interested to learn more from Pat Nurse on how smokers have been excluded from the New Nicotine Alliance. As far as I'm aware there's no restriction on smokers signing up to be suppporters of the NNA.

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 0:46 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I’m actually quite surprised that they invited you, Simon. It doesn’t sound like they actually wanted anyone around who would even whisper the word “smoking” the whole time – and surely they wouldn’t expect someone from Forest not to mention that great big elephant in the room? Maybe it’s a bit Freudian, and all those smug “they’re on our side” vapers should take note – the fact that you, Forest’s primary front-man, were invited at all shows that, subconsciously, the anti-smokers, for all their chummy-sounding words, still regard smoking and vaping as one and the same thing. A little slip that, if they would only take notice, should send a teeny, tiny shudder down the spines of all attending vapers. I doubt that it will, though. Being the types to have been fairly easily duped by the antis into giving up smoking in the first place, perhaps it’s not surprising that they look set to be duped again by the same people. Silly them.

But I’m pleased you chose not to go. If nothing else £350 a pop is a hell of a lot of money to shell out just to be totally ignored!

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 1:34 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Misty, I assume I'm on their mailing list simply because I attended in 2013. I don't think they were specifically seeking me out!

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 7:13 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Exactly right Pat. Vaping is not smoking. I too am thoroughly fed up with people assuming everyone wants to give up enjoying tobacco by switching to vaping. Many of us do not !

Friday, November 13, 2015 at 15:48 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

Simon, I attended the Summit. Mostly out of curiosity as to what exactly would be presented (I really didn't want to listen to Arnott).

Pretty much all the speakers (with the exception of Psinger, and to an exten Britton) were exalting the benefits of using e-cigarettes. Not much of it was actually new, except for the hare-brained ideas of Cramer and her cronies on "de-nicotinised" cigarettes.

There is this notion that all smokers, dual users and any other user that doesn’t “fit” with ideals are to be excluded. To my mind that is inherently wrong. I’m no fan of the tobacco industry, but I’ll happily listen to what they have to say. Same for tobacco control and public health.

Listening to what people say allows me to *make up my own damn mind* and make *my own choices*. Does this mean that because I support the NNA in the work they do to keep an option on the table, that I'm immediately against other options?

Not at all, if people want to smoke then that’s fine, if people want to give up smoking (in whichever way they choose), again that is absolutely fine. If folk don’t want to give up smoking, I have no problem with that either.

At the end of the day, I openly support *free choice* and I'll listen to all sides of the debate (however much I cringe at some of the things said).

Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 9:51 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

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