Tuesday
Nov222016

Industry lights up Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference

As I mentioned last week I was a panellist at the third Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference in London.

A two-day event, the second day coincided with the fourth E-Cigarette Summit, also in London, which struck me as a terrible bit of planning.

I’m told the date of the Next Generation conference was confirmed first. Nevertheless organisers of both events should have tried harder to avoid a clash.

I’ve written about the E-Cigarette Summit before and I suspect the views I expressed last year are equally valid now. But I’ll come back to that later.

Unlike the E-Cig Summit the Next Generation conference was industry led and there was far greater emphasis on markets, regulations and the actual products.

Speakers included James Murphy, British American Tobacco; Liam Humberstone, Totally Wicked; Dr Nveed Chaudhry, Philip Morris International; Bo Edberg, former senior vice president, NJOY Electronic Cigarettes; Mike Cameron, CEO, SMOKO; Dr Taman Powell, CEO, Xolo Vape, and many more.

Lead sponsor was EL-Science which is “dedicated solely to eLiquid analysis and manufacture”.

Other sponsors included IntraTab Labs whose “products will never damage the lungs in the manner that occurs from smoking or any inhaled nicotine product”, and Hertz Flavors whose “long term commitment and dedication to the tobacco industry has made us a preferred partner and Europe's leading supplier for unique flavours of premium quality.”

I thought the sessions might be rather technical but the ones I attended were presented in plain English and I learned quite a lot.

To fully appreciate the revolution that’s taking place it’s important to understand that e-cigarettes are just one of many emerging products.

True, they have a significant head start and markets are developing quickly in a number of countries, but it’s only part of the story.

To begin with ‘e-cigarette’ hardly begins to describe a category that includes so many devices. It’s a bit like using 'cigarette' as a generic name for cigarettes, cigars, pipes and shishas.

New kids on the block include tobacco heating products (aka ‘heat not burn’) and a hybrid product that combines e-cigarette technology with tobacco. Not quite sure how that works. I must find out.

We were also given a sales pitch for a nicotine tablet that melts in your mouth. Can't see that taking off big time but if there's a market for nicotine nasal inhalers there must be a market for tablets.

Personally I find all these developments fascinating. The work that’s going into developing safer nicotine products is genuinely impressive.

Of course it's not just about the product. There's also the consumer to consider.

In e-cigarette terms there's the “extrovert enthusiast” who is notable, said one speaker, for his tattoos and beard. This group, and the larger more complex devices they use, is no longer a growth area it seems.

Does that mean that vape festivals are an endangered species? We'll see.

The most important group of consumers, we were told, has no interest in politics or web forums. All they want is a convenient alternative to the combustible cigarette. "This is the market segment everyone wants to serve."

Another speaker suggested that open systems will never appeal to the mass market. Closed systems are the future, convenience is the key.

There was in addition a welcome note of reality. “Cigarettes,” declared another speaker (not me!), “are going to be here for a very, very long time.”

The E-Cigarette Summit is a much bigger event. It benefits too from having a far more prestigious venue. The elegant Royal Society near Pall Mall versus the rather dowdy Thistle City Hotel near the Barbican – which would you choose?

It’s equally clear however that the E-Cigarette Summit is a public health event. The organisers say it’s “solely funded through delegate revenues” but that’s a bit misleading.

Yes, the private sector (consumers and industry) is represented but the single largest group of delegates is a combination of public health professionals and lobbyists most of whose places will be funded by the taxpayer.

Also, check the programme. With one or two exceptions it's dominated by one public health speaker after another. I may have felt like a “square peg in a round hole” at the Next Generation conference but at least the organisers invited me to speak.

From what I've read the closest the E-Cigarette Summit came to an alternative point of view was giving a session to someone from the British Medical Association. The BMA may be ambivalent about e-cigarettes but they still fit the Summit's anti-smoking agenda.

And here's the problem. In my view the more vaping is promoted by public health as an "approved" activity the less it will appeal to the millions of smokers who have yet to switch.

The attraction of e-cigarettes, or so we are told, is that they empower smokers to quit without state intervention or the nagging voice of your local stop smoking service.

Instead – and the E-Cigarette Summit exemplifies this – vaping is slowly but surely being appropriated by public health and a host of taxpayer-funded anti-smoking lobby groups.

I'm certain the majority of public health professionals who currently support e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking would prefer their use to be relatively short-term. Long-term nicotine use is definitely not on the agenda.

The elephant in the room – which I tried to point out during the panel discussion at the Next Generation conference – is that millions of people enjoy smoking and the majority won't quit until there is a product that matches or exceeds the pleasure of smoking. For some smokers e-cigarettes meet that criteria but it's still a relatively small minority.

At the E-Cigarette Summit I attended in 2013 there were two principal camps – tobacco control campaigners and advocates of e-cigarettes. Since then those two camps have edged closer together.

Three years ago Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, supported the precautionary position with regard to e-cigarettes. Her reluctance to endorse them wholeheartedly put her at odds with her predecessor Clive Bates. Today, in public at least, she is a little more enthusiastic.

Likewise the leading vaping advocates have moved irrevocably in the direction of tobacco control, adopting some of the language of public health while passively embracing (ie refusing to condemn) almost every anti-smoking policy of the last 15 years.

The two groups meet in private. They also invite representatives from each camp to address their various conferences. Don’t be fooled though. This is not an equal partnership. The public health industry is clearly in control.

The E-Cigarette Summit is one example. Another was the decision to ban vaping in plenary meetings at the Global Nicotine Forum in Warsaw in June. The policy was introduced to appease a single public health delegate who had complained about being "trapped" by "unpleasant and distracting" vapour.

Officially the policy was also introduced to avoid antagonising any Polish ministers or officials who had been invited to attend. It made no difference. Three months later the Polish government banned the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces.

Appeasement doesn't work. Banning vaping (at the behest of public health) at an e-cigarette conference was a classic example of who is really calling the shots. The subsequent ban on vaping in public places was a further kick in the teeth and I can’t believe the organisers of GFN have agreed to return to Warsaw in 2017.

At the very least the conference should take place in a vaper-friendly country. Instead the organisers are effectively handing control of the conference to public health and the tentacles of tobacco control have once again strangled an event that ought to be celebrating not restricting consumer choice.

In contrast what I enjoyed about the Next Generation event was the general absence of public health nannies and the suspicion that tobacco control was effectively pulling the strings.

Unlike the E-Cigarette Summit we didn't have to listen to lectures about excluding or how to deal with the tobacco industry.

Don’t get me wrong. Every speaker that I listened to at the Next Generation conference supported risk reduction products with enthusiasm (none more so than James Murphy, head of Biosciences at British American Tobacco) but there was no preaching and health issues weren’t rammed down our throats.

Although I described myself as a “square peg in a round hole” in a previous post I never felt unwelcome. There was no hostility and I genuinely felt we were all on the same side.

In an ideal world there would be a single conference that brings together over two or three days the speakers and panellists that attended both the E-Cigarette Summit and the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference.

They are very different events but a fusion of the two would be extremely interesting and informative for everyone. The Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum is edging in that direction but an event that brings together all parties should be organised and hosted by an independent third party.

There's a need to understand the health issues but that must go hand in hand with an appreciation of the products that are available or in development, the problems faced by over-regulation, and the need for everyone – industry, consumers, public health – to work together.

Adults who enjoy smoking and don’t want to quit must also be represented, not only to convey that important message but to make the point that, ultimately, it’s about giving consumers a choice so they can make informed decisions freely and without harassment.

The sticking point is the refusal of many tobacco control groups to share a platform with the tobacco companies and critics of public health. Worse, there’s a Stalinist determination among some public health professionals to smear anyone who engages with the tobacco industry.

Sadly even the more moderate public health campaigners are averse to open, civilised debate. Their culture is based on secrecy, prohibition and, most important, control.

I will take the E-Cigarette Summit seriously but only when the organisers open it up to include some of the industry speakers who lit up the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference.

If that means a handful of tobacco control campaigners boycott the event, so what? The conference will still take place and it will be bigger, better and more interesting than ever.

Other views:
A Day at the Summit (Facts Do Matter)
Thoughts from the E-Cigarette Summit (Freedom to Vape)

Monday
Nov212016

Sheila take a bow

Only a curmudgeon would begrudge Sheila Duffy, CEO of ASH Scotland, an award for her tireless efforts to turn Scotland into a smoke free nation.

So I'm a curmudgeon.

This morning I saw several tweets congratulating Duffy for winning the snappily titled Scottish Cancer Foundation Prize and Evans Forrest Medal.

Now in its second year the prize is awarded by the SCF to "support the work of those dedicated to reducing the burden of cancer in Scotland."

The tweets I have seen refer only to the Evans Forrest Medal which is named "in recognition of the founders of the Scottish Cancer Foundation".

Perhaps it's too indelicate to mention in a tweet but the winner of the SCF Prize also gets "up to £10,000".

Nice one!

I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong with this, btw. I'm curious however about the phrases "to support the work of" and "up to £10,000".

Exactly how much will Sheila receive for winning the SCF Prize, will the money go to her or the taxpayer-funded organisation that employs her, and how will it be spent?

Just asking.

PS. When the first SCF Prize was launched last year it was stated "Applicants may be nominated or be self nominated."

I'd love to know who nominated Sheila.

Sunday
Nov202016

What Joe Jackson is listening to

It's a small world.

Further to yesterday's post featuring Sharon Jones, who died on Friday, I was reminded that Joe Jackson – who comments occasionally on this blog – also worked with the American soul singer.

They collaborated on a track (I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues) on The Duke, Joe's 2012 tribute to Duke Ellington.

Two years later, writing on his own blog What I'm Listening To (WILT), Joe had this to say about Give The People What They Want, the third album by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings:

Sharon Jones sang the shit out of I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues on my Ellington tribute record The Duke, and is a real pro and a hell of a nice lady. This album is basically business as usual, and none the worse for it: classic, deeply satisfying soul-funk. Her first album, Dap-Dippin’, is the most raw-sounding, while I Learned The Hard Way is the slickest, with strings and French horns on some tracks, but pointing out what’s new each time can become an exercise in head-scratching.

Let’s see ... this one adds three ladies called the Dapettes, which works quite nicely, though I didn’t miss them when they weren’t there. The opening of Retreat briefly reminds me, of all things, of The Clash’s London Calling. You’ll Be Lonely features a trumpet solo somewhat reminiscent of Penny Lane. Making Up And Breaking Up sounds a bit like something Dusty Springfield might have done. (Was Dusty great or what?) But really, SJ & the DKs are like the perfect Martini: some formulas don’t need to be messed with.

Anyway it reminded me I was going to write about What I'm Listening To which I discovered only a few weeks ago. WILT is beautifully written, full of pithy insights and droll, sometimes humorous, observations.

'Writing about music is difficult,' he notes, 'but I still find it interesting to try. So, once a month, I’m going to write a few words about a few things I’ve been listening to. It can’t hurt, and who knows, it might even do some good.'

Written from the perspective of a "musician and a fan", readers discover that although he's "a bit uncomfortable" with having 'favourites' his favourite singer, "hands down, of all time", is Ella Fitzgerald.

His favourite record stores are Amoeba Records in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Louisiana Music Factory in New Orleans, Dussmann in Berlin and the "glorious" Concerto in Amsterdam; two of his favourite live albums are The Duke at Fargo 1940 (Duke Ellington) and Waiting for Columbus (Little Feat); and one of his favourite musicians is the late Horace Silver.

Although his taste in music is eclectic and the blog leans towards the obscure and the underrated (Värttinnä, Janáček, Señor Coconut to name three), he's not so snobbish that he ignores the most popular and successful artists – Adele, for example:

By the time you read this, Adele's new album will have been released, and there will be no escape. There will be no remote Pacific island, no benighted Congo village, no igloo in Greenland, where it won't be on the radio every hour. The statistics will pile on top of the already staggering ones she amassed the last time around. The number of audiocassettes sold in Indonesia alone, if placed end to end, would stretch all the way to the planet Neptune, etc etc.

More power to her, I say. While one person sneers (on principle!) at popularity and embraces anything obscure, another does the exact opposite – and they're both wrong. Sometimes an artist comes along who is both popular and really good. What do you say to that, eh, you clever bastards?

Discussing the song Hello, Joe writes:

I first heard this song in a supermarket in Antwerp and thought, that must be Adele's new single, it sounds pretty good. Two days later I heard it loud, in the back of a taxi, and I swear I had a lump in my throat by the time it ended. I've never been a fan of the Power Ballad as strenuously performed by the likes of Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, or Mariah Carey. But Adele is different. How can I put it? She's not trying ... she just is.

Those American divas all sound like they've been brought up, in true American style, to believe they are truly special, and the prettiest girl in the class, and if they only believe in themselves, and follow their dreams, they can be anything their hearts desire, grow up to be President, save the starving children of Africa, defy gravity, never die, blah blah blah, pass the barf bag. Whereas Adele says things like, I'd rather have lunch with me mates than go to a gym, and then she goes and sings her heart out and puts them all to shame.

Sometimes he reveals more about himself than the music. Reviewing the Pet Shop Boys' last two albums he writes:

There was even a song called Your Early Stuff ('You've been around but you don't look too rough / And I still quite like some of your early stuff'). Quite catchy, really, but I can't listen to it without feeling uncomfortable. On the one hand, I can totally relate. Quite a few people have told me they're my biggest fan, but what they really like is My Early Stuff. In fact, they like it so much, and they're such big fans, that they've never listened to anything else.

And yet ... I couldn't write a song like Your Early Stuff - or another song from the same album, Invisible, about feeling too old at a party. In the first case I wouldn't expect anyone to sympathise, and in the second, I'd think: no one my own age needs to hear this, and no one younger wants to. I would be embarrassed by those songs before I even started writing them.

If you think that's honest his diatribe about boxed sets – his own in particular – is positively heroic:

I have one pet peeve about the music industry in general that never goes away, and that is their insatiable, and indiscriminate, demand for 'extra' material. Alternate takes, out-takes, bonus tracks, edits, remixes, special tracks for special editions or special occasions or special territories or special people ... no matter how much you give them, or how good it is, it's never enough. OK, I know some artists are more prolific than me, or have a better hit-to-miss ratio. But for the love of God, what is so hard to understand about the following?

"I've given you the absolute best I've got. I've worked my arse off and this is what I feel confident about presenting to the world. There isn't anything else, or if there is, it's in the trash where it belongs. Who says so? I say so. Why? Because I'm the bloody artist, that's why. That's what artists do: we experiment and re-write and edit and fine-tune until we get it as good as we can. And that is what we want people to hear."

So, back to 'my' boxed set (which may or may not happen): I've agreed to include a couple of lame B-sides, the Rundgren cover, and some so-so live recordings. These really are the last dregs, but it's still not enough, which is why I'm sitting here ploughing miserably through things like: (a) four takes of 'One More Time' which, even to my ears, sound exactly the same; (b) three takes of 'Is She Really Going Out With Him' marked 'Not Bad', 'Good', and 'Brilliant' (the last having been used on the album); © one and a half minutes of Graham Maby, Dave Houghton and yours truly jamming aimlessly between takes; (d) 'Beat Crazy – Instrumental' (no, not a different arrangement or anything, just the track without the vocals); (e) a mix of 'On Your Radio' identical to the album version except for a very slightly different echo effect on the vocal; etc, etc, etc.

This is not even scraping the bottom of the barrel. The bottom fell out years ago. But what do I know? Let's let the fans decide! Do you want a boxed set containing stuff like this?

Sometimes music takes a back seat. The latest entry (November 2016) is ostensibly a review of The Beatles' Live at the Hollywood Bowl but before we get there Joe takes the reader on a hilarious diversion:

A couple of years ago I was exploring a funky neighbourhood away from the tourist hordes in one of my favourite cities, Prague. It was mid-afternoon, and, feeling peckish, I went into the only place that looked open. It had dirty net curtains and a dead plant in the window. Inside, it smelled of wet cardboard, and the clientele consisted of three morose, grumbling old geezers. The beer was cheap and astonishingly good. My kind of place. And guess what: the music was The Beatles. Which inspired two thoughts.

Firstly, the Czech Republic has the best beer in the world. Not too weak or too strong, too bitter or too sweet; fresh, smooth, thirst-quenching and addictive. Why is that so hard for other countries to do? I'll never forget my father, on his one visit to New York thirty years ago, trying an American beer he pronounced 'Bud Wheezer', and judged to be 'cat piss'.

To be fair, I disagreed. Surely cat piss has much more flavor? Fast forward, though, and (thanks to that great American tradition of hurtling in an evangelical frenzy from one extreme to another) every hick town in the USA now has a 'Craft' brewery, so we have: Choice!! Yes, a choice between Triple-Hopped Barrel-Aged Molecular Sour Pomegranate Dark Rye Ale, or cat piss. What's so hard about making Good Honest Beer?

If you want to find out what his second thought was you'll need to read the WILT archive for yourself. I've cannibalised it quite enough already. Instead I'll finish with some soundbites.

On mediocre bassists:

Maybe you've never had to play with a mediocre bassist. Most of them are so sure no one's really paying attention to them, that they get away with murder.

On first albums:

There's no doubt that first albums are often romanticized or overrated. Sometimes they're the best thing the artist ever did (especially if the artist then conveniently went and died) but more often they're not; and anyway, if you can't do anything at least as good as your first album later in your career, you're not much of an artist.

On musical heroes:

I can't deny that almost all of my real musical heroes are dead, and I'm on record as saying, more than once, that I don't think we're exactly living in a musical golden age right now.

On the death of David Bowie:

I feel like I lost a friend recently. Well, not really a friend, but definitely someone who was a part of my life, whom I'd met three or four times, liked, and admired. I can't seem to either get my head around it or get it out of my head, so there's nothing else I want to write about this month.

Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Young Americans, Station To Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger, Scary Monsters, Let's Dance, Earthling, Heathen, The Next Day, and Blackstar. This is what I'm listening to, but I have nothing to say about any of it that hasn't already been said. Furthermore, a lot of what's been said is such complete bollocks, that I don't want to add to it.

As for the Pet Shop Boys:

The fact is it's 2016 and they're still around, still prolific, and still keeping the overall quality high. In the scheme of things, it's all pretty bloody amazing.

The same could be said of Joe Jackson.

Saturday
Nov192016

"The wonderful, magnificent and talented Sharon Jones"

I'll leave this here.

Recorded in Sydney in 2007 it features an electrifying vocal by "the wonderful, magnificent and talented Sharon Jones" who died yesterday.

Sharon Jones of retro-soul band the Dap-Kings dies at 60 (BBC News).

See also:

Sharon Jones remembers meeting, working and fighting (a little) with Lou Reed (Billboard).

It's rather touching.

Saturday
Nov192016

PHE's prohibitionist agenda targets smoking and sugary drinks

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, has called for a blanket ban on smoking on hospital grounds.

Newspapers report that he told Health Service Journal (HSJ):

"I would like to see every hospital tobacco free.

"I don't just mean you can stand at the front door of the hospital, I mean tobacco-free."

ASH, naturally, support the idea. According to the Telegraph:

Chief executive Deborah Arnott said: "Hospitals exist to protect and improve health which can be undermined by allowing smoking on the premises."

Undermined? How will a ban on smoking on hospital grounds "improve health"?

If you're a smoker it will make very little difference. It may postpone your next cigarette but it won't stop you smoking.

You'll either find somewhere else to smoke - a neighbouring road, perhaps - or you'll ignore the 'no smoking' signs and smoke until someone tells you to stop.

If you're a non-smoker there's no risk to your health if anyone smokes outside so prohibiting smoking on hospital grounds will, again, have zero effect.

My response highlighted the lack of compassion:

Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said blanket bans would be a “gross over-reaction”.

"Hospitals can be stressful places for patients, visitors and staff. Smoking is a comfort to many people. The NHS needs to recognise this and show a bit of compassion,” he said.

Thankfully some NHS managers are not completely heartless. The Telegraph notes:

One NHS hospital trust chief executive told HSJ: “At 7am yesterday morning I walked into the main entrance - just outside was a group of four middle-aged people crying, holding each other and smoking. I considered remonstrating with them, but thought on balance, they had probably had a bad enough night already.”

Full report: Health boss says hospitals should ban all smoking on their grounds (Daily Telegraph).

I'm also quoted by the Sun and Daily Mail (print edition).

My full reaction was:

"A blanket ban on smoking on hospital grounds would be a gross over-reaction.

"We understand why hospitals don't want people lighting up around entrances but there's no evidence that smoking in the open air is a risk to anyone else.

"A blanket ban will force people to smoke further away, which will discriminate against those who are physically infirm or in a wheelchair.

"Hospitals can be stressful places for patients, visitors and staff. Smoking is a comfort to many people. The NHS needs to recognise this and show some compassion."

See Hospitals should lead by example and ban tobacco on grounds, health chief says (Press Association).

The PA also notes that tackling smoking is only part of PHE's prohibitionist agenda:

As part of a drive to make hospitals lead by example, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) he wanted "a tobacco-free NHS" as well as "a sugary drink-free NHS, an NHS that doesn't retail high sugary products".

But don't worry, folks. PHE is pro-vaping and for some people that's all that matters.

Friday
Nov182016

Public Health England can't confirm how many smokers took part in Stoptober 2016

A couple of weeks ago I emailed Public Health England:

I would be grateful if you could confirm how many smokers signed up to Stoptober 2016.

Last year an announcement about the number who signed up for Stoptober 2015 was made on 30 October 2015. So far however I have yet to see a similar announcement for this year's event. If the figure is not currently available can you tell us when it will be made public?

In addition, could you please confirm (a) the total sum that was paid to Phil Tufnell, Craig Revel Horwood, Chris Kamara and Natasha Hamilton to promote Stoptober 2016 and (b) how much the total budget was for Stoptober 2016.

The total sum paid to comedian Al Murray and others to promote Stoptober 2015 is in the public domain (it was reported by the Mail on Sunday in February 2016) so I hope you will share with us the total sum you paid to your four celebrities in 2016.

To be fair they responded very quickly and within 24 hours had replied to my query about the four celebrities. (I wrote about it here.)

Thereafter my full enquiry was treated as a Freedom of Information request and although I was advised only this week that a reply might take several weeks, I have today received this response:

1. The strategy for Stoptober 2016 was to focus on overall participation rather than sign ups to PHE tools. As such, the evaluation will focus on quits at a population level. It is expected that all strands of the evaluation will be finalised early February. Therefore, in accordance with the Section 22 – information intended for future publication, exemption, the information you have requested is exempt from disclosure.

2. The celebrities Phil Tufnell, Craig Revel Horwood, Chris Kamara and Natasha Hamilton were paid in total £29,000 for their work on this year’s Stoptober campaign. This represented payment for their time and input in creating content that featured across campaign channels, as well as for any expenses incurred during filming and recording time.

3. The total media spend for Stoptober 2016 is approximately £545,000. This figure is indicative and excludes VAT. Final media costs will be available only after the campaigns 2016/17 financial year spend has been confirmed and completed.

It's bit of a non-story but it's interesting (to me at least) that PHE has abandoned its previous method of judging the success of Stoptober.

In 2014 for example we were told that "over 250,000 smokers stubbed out their cigarettes for Stoptober". In 2015 the figure was "over 215,000", a fall of 15 per cent.

Participants were called 'sign-ups' so I assume people registered to take part.

I'm guessing that PHE has abandoned this measurement of 'success' because they feared an even greater drop in 2016.

To avoid negative publicity and awkward questions about the use of taxpayers' money, PHE is now going to focus on "overall participation" and "quits at a population level", whatever that means.

Clearly they don't have any figures so for "evaluation" read estimates and calculations.

It will be interesting to see how they spin it but I'm sure it will be done in a way that will try to justify more public money being thrown at this event next year.

Good news for celebrities in search of easy money, less so for everyone who has to pay for it.

PS. I'm aware that, in the overall scheme of things, the money spent on Stoptober is relatively small, but it's not just Stoptober is it?

It's the accumulation of public money that is spent on anti-smoking campaigns, including stop smoking services, that grates.

ASH, of course, is currently lobbying the DH to commit spending millions of pounds on mass media anti-smoking campaigns.

Currently there is also a huge lobbying campaign to discourage cutbacks to local stop smoking services, despite the massive drop in the number of smokers using them (51 per cent between 2010 and 2015).

Why should public money be wasted on services that a dwindling number of people want to use?

Meanwhile, if PHE sees the need to evaluate the impact of Stoptober, surely the Government should do the same for a host of other anti-smoking policies and initiatives?

Instead, encouraged by ASH and other taxpayer-funded bodies, ministers stumble from one anti-tobacco measure to another, blissfully ignorant of the impact each one is having.

And even when they have no impact at all (the ban on smoking in cars with children comes to mind) each policy is acclaimed as a 'success'.

Well, we know how it works and Stoptober is evidence of that. When the original measurement of 'success' no longer produces a 'positive' result it's time to ditch it and adopt a different approach.

Having ditched 'sign-ups' as a measurement it will be interesting to see how PHE 'evaluate' the 'success' of Stoptober 2016.

Sadly we'll have to wait until February but whatever method they use I'm sure it will be creative.

Friday
Nov182016

Square peg, round hole

If ever there was a square peg in a round hole it was me at the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference in London yesterday.

In my previous post I explained that I was a little surprised to be invited to speak, even on a panel entitled 'Gaining valuable insight into consumer needs and consumption of alternative nicotine delivery products'.

I missed the first day of this two-day industry-led event but looking at the programme almost every speaker had a direct, often commercial, interest in next generation products.

Not everyone was an expert in risk reduction. Some presentations were no more than sales pitches for specific products, like the nicotine tablet that dissolves in your mouth.

Nevertheless they all came armed with a phalanx of information and statistics.

My role, in contrast, was to speak in more general terms, holding fast to views that I sense are verging on luddite to some people, including those who are professionally involved in e-cigarettes and other emerging products.

For example, the suggestion that many people enjoy smoking and don't want to quit seems almost heretical, even in the company of tobacco industry representatives, several of whom have switched roles and are now actively engaged in promoting the new generation of harm reduction products.

Anyway my fellow panellists were James Murphy, head of Biosciences at British American Tobacco, and Dr Taman Powell, founder and CEO of Xolo Vape.

We had each been invited to make some opening comments (which I had prepared) but the format changed. Instead we were asked to respond to questions from the chairman, and later the audience, in an attempt to make it more conversational.

Regular readers will be familiar with everything I said, including my little dig at PMI for openly targeting a "smoke free world".

Invited to say a few words about Forest, I stressed that we embraced harm reduction and next generation products because we're pro-choice not pro-smoking.

That said, we represent smokers who, by and large, enjoy smoking and don't want to quit.

"Many have tried e-cigarettes," I said, "but vaping doesn't suit them. It's important to understand this and ask why more smokers haven't switched.

"The debate is not just about health," I added. "It's also about risk-taking and pleasure.

"One of the reasons so many people are prepared to risk their health is because of the pleasure they get from smoking."

Repeating a point I made at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTNF) in Brussels in September I suggested that the reason many smokers haven't switched to e-cigarettes is because the jump to a smokeless product that doesn't contain tobacco is, for many, too big.

That gap, I said, has to be filled with other products, hence our interest in heat not burn (HnB) or what James Murphy called tobacco heating products.

At that point I quoted comments from readers of this blog, posted earlier this week. First, Mark Butcher:

Here in Geneva, where the iQOS has been on sale for more than a year, anecdotal evidence seems to show vapers (former smokers) are giving up vaping and going for the HnB products. That is despite there is no real cost saving over conventional fags as the heat sticks are taxed at the same rate as fags.

And from Pat Nurse:

I believe HnB are the true next generation for smokers. Ecigs are next generation for quitters.

That, I said, might be a bit harsh but it makes an interesting distinction. In the minds of some smokers HnB is an extension of smoking because it remains faithful to tobacco in a way that e-cigarettes do not.

What we need, I said, are more products, more choice, that fill the gap between combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Responding to a question I may have misinterpreted I argued that the evolution from combustible cigarettes to smoke free products must not be rushed.

"Forcing people to quit or switch involves bullying and coercion. Smokers must be given time, decades if necessary, to make their own choices."

Finally, and I can't remember how the subject cropped up, I said I would never trust tobacco control.

"The endgame," I warned, "is not a smoke free world but a nicotine free world. If anyone can't see that they must be living in a parallel universe."

Written down (and heavily edited!) my contribution doesn't sound too bad. At the time however I felt as I often do at these events – an outsider howling at the moon.

The truth is few people want to hear that many people enjoy smoking and don't want to quit. Or that many consumers put pleasure ahead of the health risks. Or that the risks are often exaggerated.

In vaping circles fewer still want to hear that e-cigarettes may not be the panacea many believe them to be.

Don't get me wrong. I felt no hostility from the audience. (This wasn't a public health event!) I think they were just a bit surprised that I wasn't completely on message.

In the current climate, even at an industry event like this, that makes you different - and not in a good way.

PS. When I get a moment I will compare the Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference with the E-Cigarette Summit that also took place in London yesterday.

The latter is a bigger, far better promoted event but the contrast – and the hidden message – is very interesting.

Wednesday
Nov162016

A tale of two conferences

Well, this is a bit ridiculous.

You wait all year for a conference on e-cigarettes and two come along ... on the same day.

Starting today at the Barbican in London is the third annual Next Generation Nicotine Delivery conference.

It's a two-day event so it will clash with the fourth annual E-Cigarette Summit that takes place at the Royal Society tomorrow.

I asked the organisers of the Next Generation conference why this had happened and they said other people had asked the same question.

And I still didn't get an answer.

I'm not sure if I would have gone to the E-Cigarette Summit (I didn't go last year, or the year before) but I don't have the option because I'm speaking at the Barbican event.

To be honest I was a little surprised to be asked. When I received the invitation to be on a panel entitled 'Gaining valuable insight into consumer needs and consumption of alternative nicotine delivery products', I replied:

I would be happy to take part if you want a slightly alternative viewpoint.

As someone who doesn't smoke or vape I can't bring any direct personal experience to the session so I would have to talk in more general terms, from a Forest perspective.

Although we primarily represent adults who choose to smoke combustible cigarettes, an increasing number of our supporters also use e-cigarettes (for a variety of reasons). Common sense dictates that we embrace and endorse any harm reduction product but most of all we advocate choice, an issue that is sometimes lost in the current debate.

Consequently we are a little uncomfortable with the evangelical nature of many pro-vaping advocates who in their enthusiasm for e-cigarettes are blind to the fact that many smokers don't like or aren't attracted to them.

Likewise at the e-cigarette conferences I've attended there seems to be a general incomprehension that more smokers don't want to switch. This attitude was reflected only last week by Mark Pawsey MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on E-Cigarettes, who said he found it "mind-blogglingly incomprehensible" that, knowing the health risks, so many people continue to smoke combustibles.

As part of the session therefore I would like to address the reasons why so many smokers haven't switched to vaping, and why they shouldn't be forced to.

Also, most if not all of the vaping representatives at e-cigarette conferences tend to be ex-smoking vapers which makes them unrepresentative of many vapers, the majority of whom are (I believe) still dual users.

They are also unrepresentative in other ways – notably the type of products they use. We very much hope there is a niche for every product for which there is some consumer demand. Long-term however we believe that if the e-cigarette market is to grow substantially and attract more smokers to switch, the two essential factors will be cost and convenience.

Based on anecdotal evidence we also believe there are some aspects of the current pro-vaping advocacy that are actually driving some smokers away from e-cigarettes.

Overall I would be very positive about e-cigarettes and their role in harm reduction. At the same time however I'd like to raise issues involving current smokers (and potential vapers) that are often overlooked when pro-vaping advocates get together.

Speakers at Next Generation include Beryl Keeley, E-Cigarette Notification Scheme Lead (MHRA); James Murphy, head of Biosciences, British American Tobacco (BAT); Bo Edberg, former Senior Vice President, NJOY Electronic Cigarettes; Liam Humberstone, Technical Director, Totally Wicked; Dr Nveed Chaudhry, Manager Scientific Engagement, Philip Morris International (PMI); and Tom Pruen, Chief Scientific Officer, ECITA.

Chairing the event is John Fitzgerald, an "industry expert". (Declaration of interest: John has attended several Forest events including Smoke On The Water and The Freedom Dinner. I can therefore vouch for the fact that he is extremely open-minded and an all around good guy!)

In contrast the E-Cigarette Summit is full of anti-smoking academics and lobbyists including Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of Tobacco Studies, University College London; Marcus Munafò, Professor of Biological Psychology, University of Bristol, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKTAS); Martin Dockrell, formerly of ASH now Tobacco Control Programme Lead, Public Health England; Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy, University of Stirling, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKTAS) and Cancer Research UK; Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH; and Anette Addison, Team Leader, Tobacco Control EU, Health and Wellbeing Division, Department of Health.

Tomorrow's event is chaired, again, by Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies (UKCTAS).

Yes, they are generally "pro-vaping" but they are universally anti-smoking as well. The E-Cigarette Summit is to all intents and purposes an anti-tobacco public health event. Unlike the Next Generation conference there's not a single tobacco industry speaker in sight. The companies will be represented in the audience, I'm sure, but it's hardly the same.

To be fair, I enjoyed the first E-Cigarette Summit in 2013 (I wrote about it here) but since then the core speakers have hardly changed and I find it hard to get excited about the thought of listening to Bauld, West, Arnott etc for the umpteenth time.

Whatever happens I shall be well out of my comfort zone at the Barbican. I'll let you know how I get on.

See also: The E-Cigarette Summit – another view (2013) and Why I'm not attending today's E-Cigarette Summit (2015).

Also: One cheer for the E-Cigarette Summit (Action on Consumer Choice, 2015).

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