Bravo, Equity!

Members of the actors' union Equity have rejected a motion acknowledging that smoking on stage is a health risk.

According to The Stage:

A motion at the union’s Annual Representative Conference in London called for Equity to condemn the health risk of smoking during performances.

However the motion was rejected, with actor and Equity vice president Maureen Beattie branding it “draconian”.

She said: “I really, really want you to oppose this motion, I think it is draconian.

“We should not, as a union, be making blanket statements about what is good for you and bad for you, that’s for other bodies to do.

“We talk all the time about representing the real world and people smoke in the real world.”

Also opposing the motion, Equity stage management councillor Adam Burns argued that current policy allows performers to make an informed decision to smoke on stage, respecting their artistic freedom of choice.

See Members thwart stage smoking health risk motion.

Smoking is currently prohibited on film and stage sets in Scotland and Wales but not in England.

A UK-wide poll conducted for Forest in June 2015 found opinion divided evenly on whether actors should or should not be allowed to smoke on stage when smoking is integral to the plot or storyline, with 50 per cent saying they should and 50 per cent saying they shouldn't.

However a poll in Scotland in March 2016 found that 52 per cent thought it should be allowed against 39 per cent who thought it shouldn't.

This result was echoed by a poll in Wales in March this year which found that 51 percent thought smoking should be allowed on stage with 38 per cent against the idea.

According to The Stage the motion was brought to 'officially' acknowledge that 'smoking on stage is unhealthy for performers and audience'.

If this refers to non-smokers on stage and in the auditorium, I'd love to see the evidence that supports this claim. To the best of my knowledge it doesn't exist.

However the proposer also claimed that the motion 'came from a stage manager who had to buy cigarettes for actors, at least one of whom he claimed was an ex-smoker who had returned to the habit after being asked to smoke onstage.'

On such feeble anecdotal evidence are smoking bans frequently introduced. On this occasion however members of Equity have put common sense - and artistic freedom - ahead of petty anti-smoking dogma.



Nominations wanted for Voices of Freedom Awards 2017

Last year we presented the inaugural Voices of Freedom Awards at The Freedom Dinner.

In no particular order awards went to Rod Liddle (The Spectator), Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas), Chris Snowdon )IEA), John Mallon (Forest Ireland) and mental health campaigner Barry Curtis.

You can read the citations here.

Nominations are now invited for the 2017 Awards that will be presented at this year's dinner on Tuesday June 27.

I have one nominee in mind – a well-known breakfast TV presenter – but we'd welcome your ideas too.

Add your suggestion/s to the comments or email


Tumultuous TV

Until this morning the funniest thing I had seen on television this year was the 'monkey' episode of Peter Kay's Car Share.

But that was before I watched Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan, Susanna Reid, a man from the National Obesity Forum, and Chris Snowdon.

But first, a declaration of interest.

On Saturday afternoon I got a call from Five Live Breakfast. The researcher asked whether our Free Society campaign was still active because they wanted someone to comment on calls for a ban on eating junk food on buses and trains.

By coincidence I had literally just read the story in the Daily Mail but I had to confess that (a) The Free Society has been in hibernation for several years, and (b) I wasn't an expert on obesity but, if I had to, I could say a few words on the subject.

Anyway it was clear my knowledge about the subject was limited so I suggested they contact my erstwhile colleague Rob Lyons (Action on Consumer Choice and author of Panic On A Plate) or Chris Snowdon, head of the IEA's Lifestyle Economics Unit.

A hour or so later I got an email to say they were going to use Chris on Sunday morning.

I didn't hear that interview but when I saw Chris tweet that he was going to be discussing the same issue on Good Morning Britain today I had to watch.

It didn't disappoint.

Chris's fellow guest was Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum and, well, you just have to watch the whole thing.

It certainly brightened up my morning.

To watch the full 'debate' click on the image above or the link in the tweet below.

See also Good Morning Britain catapulted into meltdown after 'ridiculous' fast food debate (Daily Star).

Funnily enough I sat next to Tam Fry on The Big Questions (BBC1) a few weeks ago. We had a brief chat in the Green Room and he seemed pleasant enough, albeit a little pompous.

I'd love to know what happened after the on-air 'debate', when the two guests returned to the Green Room. Perhaps Chris will tell us.

Update: On second viewing it takes longer to warm up than I remember. In fact it's a fairly straightforward debate until, unexpectedly, the comedy kicks in. Worth waiting for, though.


Well, I mean, so ...

One of my pet hates at the moment is people starting a sentence with the word "So".

I don't know where it's come from (it's a relatively recent phenomenon) but listen to the radio and I guarantee that, when asked a question, there's a high probability the person will begin their response by saying, "So ..."

It's particularly prevalent amongst broadcast journalists but it's catching on like wildfire and it's really annoying because the word is almost always completely superfluous.

That said, I'm guilty of a few verbal tics myself. A few weeks ago I read a transcript of a radio interview I'd done.

Not only did I unwittingly begin numerous sentences with the words, "I mean", I repeatedly responded to questions by saying, "Well, ..."


Anyway, I think I've got "I mean" under control but reading the transcript of the interview I did about vaping last week I'm finding it harder to stop my compulsion to begin replies to questions with the word "Well".

In my defence it's not as bad as saying "er" or "um" over and over again yet that's what many broadcast journalists do all the time.

Honestly, listen to them. How do they keep their jobs? If you can't speak without umming and erring all the time you shouldn't be in broadcasting.

I just wanted to get that off my chest.


It's a mystery 

There was a demo in Whitehall last week.

According to the Observer:

On Friday the New Nicotine Alliance, led by Professor Gerry Stimson, a public health expert, protested against the new measures outside the Department of Health. “Vaping has helped 1.5 million give up smoking,” Stimson said. “This extraordinary success is put at risk by rules that make vaping less attractive to Britain’s 9 million current smokers.”

I was aware of the planned protest because I'd seen several references to it online. One read:

There'll be a last minute protest against the TPD, with manufacturers and vapers, outside the Department of Health in Whitehall in London at 9.30am on Friday. The protest is supported by ECITA, Flavour Vapours, NNA and others.

Another said the demo was being filmed by ITN.

The plan, I understand, was for independent vape companies to dump their now illegal stock outside the DH for a photo opp.

As PR stunts go it was a pretty good idea although you'd need a small mountain of the stuff to truly make the point.

(The French are particularly good at this sort of thing. In July 2015, for example, French tobacconists dumped four tonnes of carrots on the street in protest against the introduction of plain packaging.)

Anyway I looked forward to reading more and seeing photos of the event on the day but hard though I looked I couldn't find anything online.

I checked the ECITA, Flavour Vapours and NNA Twitter accounts. Zero.

I visited their websites. Zip.

I checked on Facebook. Zilch.

I checked the Twitter accounts of people I thought might be there. Nada.

I'm not being critical. I wish all these groups and companies well. But why no tweets, photos or posts about the protest as it was happening, or after?

I'm genuinely curious because it's a mystery.

If there are any photos or reports of Friday's demo that I've missed please let me know and I'll be happy to link to them.

PS. Had to laugh. On Thursday the NNA tweeted:

Time to Brexit the TPD! Join the protest at 0930 tomorrow at Department of Health, Whitehall.

Gerry Stimson, who chairs the NNA, is a fervent Remainer but if it wasn't for Brexit the UK wouldn't have the option of repealing some of the TPD regulations.

Perhaps it's time for Gerry to change his tune on Brexit?

Just saying!!


Packaging news

So after all the huffing and puffing we finally got there.

From this weekend smokers will no longer be able to buy packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes or pouches of rolling tobacco smaller that 30g.

Previously you could buy 10g pouches so you now have to buy three times as much.

If you're trying to reduce your consumption without going cold Turkey you'll now have to buy the larger pack and do your best to resist temptation.

ASH says the measure is justified because "It has a greater effect on younger people and those on low incomes, as for obvious reasons, they’re more sensitive to price."

Or, in the words of director of policy Hazel Cheeseman, "It will hit poorer smokers harder." Nice.

Other regulations include larger, more gruesome health warnings. Not only does this suggest the previous graphic warnings weren't working, it also begs the question, what's next?

At this point I could suggest something in very poor taste but it might put ideas into their heads. After all, graphic health warnings were considered shocking once but it didn't stop their introduction when other policies failed to produce the desired results.

Bizarrely, while smaller tobacco packs and pouches have been outlawed, vapers are today coming to terms with the fact that the maximum volume of e-liquid available for purchase legally is now restricted to 10ml.

The nicotine strength of e-liquids is restricted to 20mg/ml, and e-cigarette tanks are restricted to no more than 2ml.

In addition, labelling requirements on e-cigarette products now include a warning about nicotine being addictive even though nicotine itself is relatively harmless and there is very little evidence that (a) non-smokers are vaping, or (b) vaping is a gateway to tobacco.

The whole thing is a complete mess but that's regulators for you.

Then there's plain packaging which is a classic example of the UK government gold-plating EU regulations.

I'd like to think Brexit will produce fewer regulations but I'm not convinced it will. Regulators regulate.

Anyway I've said all I want to say about plain packaging (we've been campaigning on this issue since 2011) but I'll just echo something Chris Snowdon wrote yesterday:

All the smokers I know have reacted to the new packs with a shrug of the shoulders. The notion that changing the colour of the pack will reduce the appeal of what’s inside is as risible as it ever was and some of the new graphic warnings cause genuine mirth (the baby with the cigarette dummy is a particular favourite).

Actually, the Friends of Forest Facebook page features some fairly tasty comments by aggrieved smokers but, by and large, the smokers I've talked to or heard on the radio have also been pretty phlegmatic.

Plain packs certainly won't stop them smoking and we're still waiting for evidence from Australia (where plain packs were introduced more than four years ago) that they've had any impact on youth smoking rates.

Talking of which, when tobacco control campaigners refer to "young people" don't be fooled into thinking they mean children.

The term may include teenagers but it's now a catch-all expression covering people well into their twenties.

Last night, on Five Live, I was on with a specialist in paediatrics who appeared to argue that because our brains continue to develop until we're 25 anyone below that age is vulnerable.

I think he was referring to addictive substances including nicotine but I'd have to listen again. It explains however his espousal of the cautionary principle, which he applied even to e-cigarettes.

The point is, the age restriction on tobacco sales has risen from 16 to 18, at which point we are legally said to be adults.

In many US states however it's illegal to smoke (or drink alcohol) below the age of 21.

Now we're being told that our brains continue to develop – and are vulnerable to addictive substances – as late as 25.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Increasingly we're being spun the idea that anyone below the age of 25 is 'vulnerable' to nicotine, alcohol and so on.

Below that age you will be treated like a child and subjected to increasing restrictions on anything considered harmful to "young people".

Finally, I hope the folks at ASH are enjoying a little rest and recuperation this weekend. They were so excited, "counting down" the days and hours to full implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive and plain packaging, I imagine they could hardly sleep with excitement.

Odd, I know, but packaging does that to some people.

Update: Regarding the new regs, you can read Forest's reaction here:

Cigarettes sold in plain green packs under new rules (BBC News)
New cigarettes packaging rules come into force (ITV News)
Stricter cigarette packaging rules come into force in UK (Guardian)
Plain cigarette packs 'milestone' as critics claim policy treats smokers like 'naughty children' (The Herald)
All cigarettes must be sold in standardised green packets from tomorrow (Press Association)

Update: Pat Nurse has also being doing her bit. Pat was on Five Live Breakfast with Hazel Cheeseman of ASH this morning.

To listen click here. The discussion starts around 1:08.


Charlie, Cheeseman, Debrett's and me

As I mentioned yesterday I was booked to do a radio interview about vaping today.

I was told we were going to discuss the "rise of vaping" but we ended up talking about the new regulations that have been introduced as part of the revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD2).

The key changes are:

  • Refillable tanks must have a capacity of no more than 2ml
  • E-liquids can not be sold in quantities greater than 10ml
  • Unless registered as a medicine e-liquids can not have a nicotine strength of more than 20mg/ml
  • E-liquid packaging must be child-resistant and tamper evident
  • Additives including colouring, caffeine and taurine are banned
  • All e-cigarettes and e-liquids must be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency before they can be sold
  • Stricter labelling requirements including warnings about the addictiveness of nicotine

The discussion took place on BBC Radio Kent at 7.30 this morning and I was joined by Hazel Cheeseman of ASH.

The programme had earlier interviewed a local vape shop owner. An hour after us they also featured Charles Hamshaw-Thomas, representing the British Vaping Industry Association, and a young lady from Debrett's who, somewhat bizarrely in the circumstances, was asked to talk about the etiquette of vaping, a subject I discussed on BBC Radio Guernsey in March.

I know Charlie and I suspect he would have been a bit non-plussed to have his time eaten up by someone discussing the pros and cons of vaping at dinner parties. "This isn't what I signed up to," I can imagine him muttering.

Anyway, here's the transcript of the 'discussion' Hazel and I had. The total running time was eight minutes but I've edited it here and there where the meaning was not entirely clear or it was difficult to decipher exactly what was said.

Maggie Doyle: Presenter, BBC Radio Kent
Now from this weekend vaping shops and cafes in Kent face new restrictions on the strength and size of e-cigarettes they can sell. The group representing the industry claims smokers could find it harder to quit if they have to move on to lower strength vaping products. Well, on the line now is Hazel Cheeseman, the director of policy at ASH, a public health charity, and Simon Clark, director of the smoking group Forest. Good morning to you both.

Simon Clark:
Good morning.

Maggie Doyle:
First of all, Hazel, do you welcome these new restrictions, these new laws that are coming into place?

Hazel Cheeseman:
Yes, we welcome the broad range of regulations that are coming into place. There are controls around marketing and the products will have to be notified so we will know what the ingredients of products are. I think all of these are sensible measures to make sure that people can have confidence in the products and that we are protecting non-smokers and children from needlessly taking up a habit.

Maggie Doyle:
And ultimately where does ASH stand on vaping products? I mean, do you think they're a good idea?

Hazel Cheeseman:
Yes, certainly, if people are looking for something to move away from smoking then taking up vaping does appear to be a really successful step for many people. Our most recent data shows we've got three million, just short of three million, vapers in Great Britain and over half of those have completely quit smoking. So where smokers are able to completely stop smoking then there is a significant health benefit from moving on, from taking on and using electronic cigarettes.

Maggie Doyle:
And just as a note of interest. I suppose, then, if you have got three million vapers, how many millions of smokers have we got in the country? Do you have those figures to hand?

Hazel Cheeseman:
Yes, there are nine million smokers in Great Britain and three million people are using electronic cigarettes and about half of them have quit smoking and half of them are still smoking.

Maggie Doyle:
And the nine million smokers, are they smoking cigarettes?

Hazel Cheeseman:
Yes, smoking cigarettes and they are also vaping.

Maggie Doyle:
Oh, so they are also vaping as well. OK, fantastic. Simon Clark from Forest, what's your reaction to the restrictions on the e-cigarettes? It's a good idea or ...?

Simon Clark:
Well, like Hazel I agree with some of the regulations. There do need to be restrictions on marketing [but] I think some are over the top and are unnecessary at this stage. For example, restricting the maximum volume of e-liquids for sale. I think that's unnecessary. Also, restricting e-cigarettes tanks to no more than 2ml and restricting the nicotine strength of e-liquids ...

Maggie Doyle:
But they are not going to change by any huge amount. We had a vape business owner in here early on in the programme. He had some stuff with him that he brought in with from his shop. They are actually just going from 2.4 per cent down to two per cent levels of nicotine. So that’s not a huge amount, is it?

Simon Clark:
Well, I think the problem is you're given the impression, particularly with the warnings that are going to be put on e-cigarettes, that they are a serious health risk and clearly the evidence does not suggest that at all ...

Maggie Doyle:
And would you support a new generation of people starting to vape? In other words people who have never smoked, people who think it's cool or something. Would you support them taking up vaping?

Simon Clark:
Well, the evidence at the moment is that hardly any non-smokers are taking up vaping. The overwhelming majority of vapers are smokers or ex-smokers, but if people choose to take up vaping when they are 18 that's their individual choice. People must be allowed to make informed choices as to whether or not they choose to smoke tobacco or vape or drink alcohol. All these things are down to informed consumer choice.

John Warnett: Presenter
Simon, the warnings on the packets I have seen, it just says that nicotine is an addictive substance. That’s really just warning people that even though they are not taking in any other toxin that comes with cigarettes, nicotine is an addictive substance, and that's a fact, isn’t it?

Simon Clark:
Yes indeed but ...

John Warnett:
That’s the only warning.

Simon Clark:
Well, I know. The trouble is though it gives the impression that because nicotine is potentially addictive somehow that's a bad thing, but caffeine is also potentially addictive. There are lots of potentially ...

Maggie Doyle:
And there are no warnings, I suppose, on coffee cups?

Simon Clark:
Well the point is that nicotine itself is not harmful and if you put a warning [saying] nicotine is addictive then that gives the impression that the product itself is harmful and I think that's a very negative message to put out when these products are still in their infancy. If you want people to switch why would you put people off like that?

Maggie Doyle:
Let’s put that point to Hazel Cheeseman. What would you say to Simon's point there?

Hazel Cheeseman:
It's very interesting to be lectured about public health from Simon who is being funded by tobacco manufacturers and really only got interested in this subject since those companies have entered the market, but on the specific point around nicotine warnings I really don't think it's unreasonable for a product to say that nicotine is addictive. I mean, the addiction to nicotine has caused millions of deaths across the planet, you know, for the last many decades and while ...

Maggie Doyle:
But that’s because people were smoking nicotine in a cigarette which had tobacco in it.

Hazel Cheeseman:
Indeed, and although electronic cigarettes are a much safer alternative to smoking they are not completely risk free and ...

Maggie Doyle:
It sounds like you are suggesting that if you smoke, if you vape for life, you could also die from nicotine?

Hazel Cheeseman:
No, not that you would, no. I think the point that nicotine is relatively innocuous is a reasonable one. I mean, not completely risk free but relatively, but, you know, when you're using an electronic cigarette you're inhaling something into your lungs and if you're using it every day in a habitual way then the chances are that it may well do you some harm long-term. That harm would be an absolute fraction of the harm of smoking combustible cigarettes every day for the rest of their life so if your alternative is to use an electronic cigarette than electronic cigarettes are going to be much much better, but if we're talking about people who have never smoked, and young people, then I think it is reasonable to warn them that nicotine is addictive and if they use these products they could become addicted by using them long-term and that could be problematic.

Simon Clark:
And should we also have warnings on chocolate and coffee saying caffeine is potentially addictive and chocolate is potentially addictive? I mean, where will it go?

Maggie Doyle:
Good point. Hazel, what do you think of that?

Hazel Cheeseman:
I think what we're talking about here [is] inhaling something into a vulnerable organ [such] as your lungs. Also we do have these combustible products on the market which are lethal and and they do contain nicotine. So if people are establishing a nicotine addiction when they need not then that's not positive and I don't think it's unreasonable to inform people that nicotine is addictive. But there is an important message here, and it is difficult, but we want people to understand that electronic cigarettes are much much safer than ...

Simon Clark:
So how do these warnings help? These warnings won’t help at all.

Maggie Doyle:
Simon, would you ...?

Simon Clark:
We have got to remember that these regulations have actually come from the European Union. So one would hope that the new government, after we have left the European Union, would actually review these regulations.

Maggie Doyle:
So you don’t think that there should be a warning on them at all? You don’t think there should be a warning about nicotine being an addictive substance?

Simon Clark:
I don’t, personally. At this stage I think that we're in danger of putting people off ...

Maggie Doyle:
OK, we have to leave it there. We have run out of time. Simon Clark, director of the smoking group Forest, and also Hazel Cheeseman, the director of policy at ASH, a public health charity.

What made me laugh was Cheeseman's suggestion that Forest is a latecomer to this issue. In fact I first wrote about e-cigarettes in January 2010 and I've been commenting – and giving occasional interviews on the subject – ever since.

I won't get into a petty argument on that score but I will say this.

From the moment we became aware of e-cigarettes Forest has always supported the product because our guiding principle – the promotion of choice and personal responsibility – has never wavered.

Compare that to ASH whose support for e-cigarettes follows a dramatic and relatively recent change of heart.

Less than three years ago, for example, reviewing the first E-Cigarette Summit in November 2014, I wrote:

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 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.

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 his 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?)

If there are any vapers reading this, don't be in any doubt – ASH are fair weather friends. Their current 'support' for e-cigarettes is purely tactical, a means to an end.

ASH has no interest in vaping as a recreational product. In their eyes e-cigarettes are a smoking cessation tool, nothing else.

As for the TPD regulations vaping organisations have been complaining about and want repealed after Britain has left the EU, ASH supports every single one of them, including the counter-productive warning about nicotine being addictive.

Commenting last week Deborah Arnott declared:

“The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end while over a third of smokers have still never tried e-cigarettes, saying the main reasons are concerns about the safety and addictiveness of e-cigarettes. It’s very important smokers realise that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking.”

Has it never occurred to her that by banging on about the alleged addictiveness of nicotine some people will obviously leap to the conclusion that any form of nicotine inhalation is potentially dangerous.

When you then add the warning 'This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance' to e-cigarette products (a regulation ASH supports) it's inevitable people will regard e-cigarettes in a far more negative light.

Meanwhile I have to listen to lectures from Arnott and ASH's director of policy who chides me for what she claims is Forest's belated interest!!

What. A. Joke.


The rise of vaping and a potential threat

I'll be on radio tomorrow talking about the rise of vaping.

ASH (the vapers' friend) published the results of its annual survey into the use of e-cigarettes and vapourisers last week.

This year's headline stat was the fact that, for the first time, more than half of UK vapers 'have given up smoking' (BBC News).

According to ASH:

In 2012, there were 700,000 vapers in the UK, now there are 2.9 million.

Some 1.5 million vapers are ex-smokers, compared with 1.3 million who still use tobacco.

The rest are mostly dual users. Only a tiny handful of vapers have never smoked.

More pertinent perhaps is the fact that the rate at which smokers are switching to e-cigarettes has peaked.

Some people, including ASH, seem to think a major reason more smokers aren't switching concerns the perception of harm:

A growing proportion of the public and smokers fail to recognise that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking.

That may be a factor. Personally I think there are other reasons why (to quote ASH CEO Deborah Arnott) "The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end."

First and foremost, the rate at which smokers were taking up vaping was unsustainable.

E-cigarettes appeal largely to those who want to quit smoking or those who want an alternative nicotine device in places where smoking is prohibited (dual users).

Sooner or later that market was going to be saturated because the number of smokers who want to stop isn't as great as tobacco control would have us believe.

In fact a significant number of confirmed smokers (95% according to one recent study) enjoy smoking and don't want to quit.

A small majority accept they are addicted but it doesn't seem to bother them because the enjoyment outweighs other considerations, including the health risks.

Although the majority of vapers are now ex-smokers, a substantial number are still dual users who vape only when they're not permitted to smoke.

As vaping is increasingly banned where smoking is prohibited there is less incentive to switch (which is why the likes of the Royal Society for Public Health want smoking banned outside pubs as well).

Several generations on, e-cigarettes are not yet capable of giving the majority of smokers the experience they crave. For a variety of reasons many don't enjoy vaping.

Some of this information can be found in The Pleasure of Smoking: The Views of Confirmed Smokers which is based on a study of 600 smokers by the Centre for Substance Use Research.

But I'd like to suggest two more reasons why the rate of smokers switching to e-cigarettes is not what it was.

One, the more anti-smoking groups like ASH try to 'own' e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool the less attractive they will appear to the many smokers who loathe and detest the quit smoking industry.

And who can blame them? Tobacco control's latest proposals - a ban on smoking in social housing and a ban on smoking outside pubs - tells you everything you need to know about these despicable, puritanical bullies.

Two, if you read ASH's Smokefree GB survey in full (the name alone indicates the direction of travel) you'll stumble upon something quite interesting.

When asked what would prompt them to try an e-cigarette again, only 5% of smokers said, 'If I were recommended a specific product by someone I trusted.'

An even smaller number (1%) said, 'If I knew other people who used them.'
So when harm reduction campaigners talk about enlisting an "army" of vapers to go out into the world to spread the message, like a latter day temperance movement, I'm pretty certain they're barking up the wrong tree.

In fact I suspect that far from welcoming their evangelical advances millions of smokers - even those who want to quit - will react the same way most people respond when door-to-door preachers come knocking, with a polite but firm, "Thanks, but no thanks."

The same is true, I believe, of stop smoking services that try to 'educate' smokers to switch.

There's a reason stop smoking services are haemorrhaging clients - the number of smokers may be in long-term decline but so is the number of smokers who wish to quit.

The two are inextricably linked and there must come a point - very soon - when local government has to pull the plug on a service that few smokers want or need.

After all, if smokers do want to quit the overwhelming majority has always done so without state intervention - most recently by voluntarily switching to e-cigarettes, for example.

Which brings me to another point. Many advocates of vaping are so deeply engaged with the anti-smoking industry it's difficult to tell them apart sometimes.

Far from resisting tobacco control and excessive regulations some are effectively collaborators, happy to throw smokers under the bus if it helps their cause.

They deny it but their silence on anti-smoking legislation, including smoking bans, plain packaging and so on, speaks volumes.

It's indisputable too that many supporters of vaping are tobacco control activists whose anti-smoking agenda is well known and over-rides, I think, the harm reduction argument.

In terms of tobacco they are prohibitionists, pure and simple (albeit creeping prohibition). So can you blame smokers if they view their promotion of e-cigarettes with suspicion and mistrust?

Having been stigmatised and denormalised for years by tobacco control, why would you take advice from people who support more and more regulations to achieve their Utopian goal of a 'smokefree' (sic) world?

And why would you listen to those who, by virtue of their silence, are effectively collaborating in your denormalisation?

The simple fact is, the rapid growth of vaping, like the rapid decline in smoking which reached its peak between the mid Seventies and early Nineties, took place when there were relatively few regulations.

Education and increasing understanding of the potential health risks of smoking led to fewer people doing it.

It didn't need a tsunami of repressive laws or an army of anti-smoking evangelists to convince millions to stop. They made an informed decision to quit (or not start) all by themselves, just as it should be.

Smokers must also be allowed to decide for themselves whether to cut down or quit by switching to e-cigarettes. Millions have already done so; some are now ex-smoking vapers and others have decided to continue smoking. If that's their choice good luck them.

What they don't need is unsolicited lectures, well-meaning or otherwise, on the pleasures of e-cigarettes. If smokers genuinely want to quit and are curious about vaping they'll make that discovery for themselves.

More counter-productive still would be outdoor smoking bans designed to force smokers to switch. Even the most cursory understanding of human nature can predict how that will end.

In short, one of the biggest threats to vaping, beyond excessive regulation, is an unholy alliance between tobacco control and advocates of vaping that enlists vapers as foot soldiers and deploys e-cigarettes as weapons in the war on tobacco.

Nothing, in my view, will damage vaping more than the perception that, far from being a recreational product in its own right, e-cigarettes are merely a quit smoking tool, 'owned' and regulated by the public health industry as part of a long-term plan to outlaw smoking and, ultimately, any use of nicotine.

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