Why I'm tempted to attend the 2017 E-Cigarette Summit
Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 11:27
Simon Clark

Dick Puddlecote has posted a damning indictment of the E-Cigarette Summit on his blog.

Echoing many of my own views about this annual event, Dick highlights the lack of consumer involvement and concludes:

Basically, the whole day will be a load of people who mostly don't vape or smoke talking about what to do to people who do. In other words, yet another public health conference, and all the more pointless for it. Still, it'll suit tobacco controllers not to have to field any awkward questions, and further prove that this sphere of policy is now controlled, dictated and owned by 'public health'.

From a promising beginning in 2013 (which I wrote about here), the E-Cigarette Summit has become yet another forum that allows public health campaigners to dictate the terms of the debate.

Two years ago, spotting the direction of travel, I wrote a post (Why I'm not attending today's E-Cigarette Summit) in which I commented:

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.

I added:

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 I 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?

Tobacco Free Futures no longer exists so we will be spared Andrea's no doubt insightful observations at this year's Summit. Against that is the fact that compared to 2015, when there were two consumer representatives, there is now just one on the list of 20 speakers.

Public health activists will probably argue that the event is organised by an independent third party and they have no control over who is invited to speak, but the reality is that – commercially – the E-Cigarette Summit needs the support of the public sector to fill all those seats at the Royal Society and the organisers can't risk alienating their core audience by exposing them to anything that might put them out of their comfort zone.

The result is that important stakeholders such as the tobacco companies are noticeably absent from programme and the sole consumers' representative is relegated to a bit part at the fag end of a long day.

I'm tempted to attend the 2017 E-Cigarette Summit if only to compare it with the first event in 2013 where several delegates were openly vaping and with the exception of a rather grumpy Deborah Arnott it was a surprisingly friendly and positive environment.

I'll only go though if I get a preferential rate as the representative of a non-profit smokers' rights group.

Watch this space.

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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