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GFN: I would if I could but I can't

Sadly I can't make the Global Forum on Nicotine that began in Warsaw today.

I had prior commitments including our Burning Issues dinner in Dublin (see previous post) so I had to decline the invitation.

Sent by one of the co-founders of this annual event, now in its fourth year, it read:

I think that you write and tweet a lot of inaccurate stuff about GFN and think it might be refreshing for you to come to the conference and to make a judgment on what we do based on first-hand experience, rather than what you discern from our website.

You would be very welcome and I think that you will find experience interesting. We are the only event that brings together a wide range of stakeholders who otherwise might never meet each other.

I'm not sure that's strictly true (a lot of conferences including the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum can make exactly the same claim) but here's my response, slightly abbreviated:


Thanks for the invitation!

I have considered going to GFN in the past and would consider going this year. However June is a very busy month for us and I am in Ireland that week.

If I can't make it I would however be happy to meet you for coffee sometime so we can have a chat and you can tell me where I'm going wrong re GFN. Most of my comments are the result of feedback from people who have attended the conference. Others are prompted by things like last year's ban on vaping in plenary sessions.

I greatly respect the work you do and GFN is obviously a huge success but I do think it's a mistake to 'reward' Poland by returning to Warsaw when vaping has just been banned everywhere that smoking is prohibited.

With regard to vaping generally we are very supportive of harm reduction and I have gone out of my way to engage with vaping bodies, only to be rebuffed.

Our fundamental position however is our support for choice and I think that in their enthusiasm for vaping some advocates forget there are millions of smokers who enjoy smoking and have no wish to quit, despite the health risks.

I also think that some e-cigarette conferences are increasingly dominated by public health speakers with consumers (current smokers and dual users especially) relegated to a very minor role.

Here's something I wrote about the E-Cigarette Summit in 2015. Some of my comments could, I think, be applied to GFN although I see you've invited David O'Reilly [Group Scientific and R&D Director at British American Tobacco] to speak this year so that's a significant step forward.

Last year, through a colleague (who attended GFN in 2015), we offered to provide a speaker for GFN. Nothing ever came of it which is a pity because I think we have something to offer the conference.

This year, for example, I could have talked about The Pleasure of Smoking study that was conducted by Neil McKeganey and funded by Forest. Or you could have invited Neil himself. As you know he is a very engaging speaker. The report has an interesting section about e-cigarettes and why more confirmed smokers aren't switching.

Or I could have talked about consumer engagement with the media. A few months ago some vaping advocates asked for advice and I wrote about it here.

I would love too to see a consumer panel in which four speakers, say, enthuse and possibly argue about the merits of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, heated tobacco and snus. Alternatively you could do something similar to a recent Forest event that featured a light-hearted balloon debate on the subject 'The Best Nicotine Delivery Device in the World'. We had six speakers and it was very entertaining.

Anyway, I would be happy to meet and have a chat so do let me know.

Finally, I'd like to invite you and [your fellow organiser] to attend, as our guests, the annual Freedom Dinner at Boisdale of Canary Wharf on Tuesday 27th June. Note that this is a vaper-friendly event – guests can vape during dinner.

Best wishes,


I thought that was quite a friendly, constructive response (written and sent within 24 hours of receiving the invitation).

Five weeks later I've heard nothing more so I guess we won't be meeting for coffee nor will they be attending The Freedom Dinner.

Pity. I would have been happy to meet them. I'm sure they would have enjoyed The Freedom Dinner almost as much as I would have enjoyed attending the Global Forum on Nicotine.

Next year, perhaps.

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