Degreasing engines & killing cells

Although cell studies for e-cigarettes have some value, presenting them with press statements making ridiculous claims about supposed findings and interpretations makes the whole issue look more like a joke. A wise comment from Dr Farsalinos from May 2015, however these “studies” keep getting churned out some with, and some without scary press releases. But as it is that time of year when folk are more likely to make a quit attempt either due to someone buying them a starter kit for Christmas, or they’ve made a resolution to “kick the habit” at the start of the year; you wouldn’t be surprised to see the useful idiots trumpeting all kinds of daft claims about “the dangers of e-cigarettes”. Continue reading “Degreasing engines & killing cells”

As Thick As Thieves

December 23rd 2015, a date that has been ingrained in my brain since the Totally Wicked Legal Challenge was heard in the Court of Justice of the European Union on October 1st. As the old saying goes – “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” – as many people suggested that the challenge appeared to be very strong, but it seems that many folks were content to hinge everything on Totally Wicked being 110% successful.

Continue reading “As Thick As Thieves”

The End Game: Collaboration

There is an unfortunate conflict in the realms of public health, tobacco control and the vaping community. All sides effectively want the same thing, to an extent or so they say. Public health would like the general public to be as healthy as possible, and where necessary follow the rules they think are best for all of us. Tobacco control are so ingrained in their “fight” against ‘Big Tobacco’ that anything that vaguely resembles tobacco or smoking must be stopped at any cost. While us vapers just really want to be left alone to enjoy our choice. Continue reading “The End Game: Collaboration”

To vape, is to be a criminal

At least, in Canada it is. You will of course remember Bill 45, curiously entitled “Making Healthier Choices Act” which effectively makes it illegal to use/sell or display e-cigarettes; curiously when I first read Bill 45, I immediately thought “this is the TPD on fucking steroids”. I was, in fact completely fucking wrong. Continue reading “To vape, is to be a criminal”

Vaping & Ambulance Chasing

If there’s one constant in this multiverse it is the incessant need for folk to have to blame someone else for their stupidity. In some (rare) cases, it is actually the fault of the product either through some kind of wacky early-life failure or through some product design flaw. Sadly, the majority of these kinds of cases is simply down to Darwinism. Continue reading “Vaping & Ambulance Chasing”

Advertising under the Tobacco Products Directive

As many of you will no doubt be aware, the UK implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive is coming whether we like it or not. September 3rd saw the closure of the official public consultation on the majority of the implementation regulations. Today saw the publication of additional ‘guidance’ under Article 20 section 5. Specifically all about the advertising portion of Article 20. Continue reading “Advertising under the Tobacco Products Directive”

General principles debated, nothing new to learn

In case you’ve been asleep for most of this past week, Wales held the first reading of the ludicrously titled “Public Health (Wales) Bill” in the Senedd. Many were expecting a fairly inglorious climb down from the nutty Minister for Health and Social Services. At least, that’s how it has been reported by Auntie Beeb:

The decision this afternoon can be interpreted in two ways.

Some critics will view it an embarrassing climb down – and ask why did the health minister press ahead with the proposed ban in the face of significant opposition and unclear evidence.

Supporters of the Welsh government will say he has acted responsibly, listened to the debate and acted accordingly – an example perhaps of democracy in action.

The watering down of the proposed e-cigarette ban in public places does raise some questions about what exactly the Welsh government’s flagship Public Health Bill will now ultimately achieve.

For those of you not overly familiar with the full contents of the “Public Health (Wales) Bill”, it details a variety of measures related to community public toilets, intimate piercings, tattoos, special procedures and of course e-cigarettes. Now why do you suppose e-cigarettes have been slipped into such an innocuous looking Bill? After all, the provision of public toilets, regulating intimate piercings, tattoos and special procedures is of “vital importance” to the health of the general public aren’t they?

Well, as with any political manoeuvering, if you include enough small stuff that other politicians can actually agree on then the proposal as a whole will pass. Pretty sneaky huh? Trouble is, once we got wind of the inclusion of e-cigarettes into the Bill, all hell kicked off. If it wasn’t for the inclusion of e-cigarettes, this Bill would no doubt have been passed unnoticed by the general public. As it is, it’s grabbed headlines at every step of the way. Most of them showing little or no support for the inclusion of e-cigarettes in the Bill, with some opponents openly stating that the section on e-cigarettes should be removed from the Bill and handled as its own entity. Of course, the ever benevolent Health Minister has absolutely no intention of doing that, simply because that step would fail. As has been covered numerous times, by a variety of people there simply isn’t enough evidence to support what the Minister wants.

So when handed the floor of the Senedd, what did our benevolent Minister do?

Chair, only a few years ago, that fine Bangor historian Dr Pamela Michael concluded that:
‘The history of public health in Wales is…a crucial part of our nation’s history.’

Interesting way to start off his prepared speech.

The Bill before the National Assembly today continues that 150-year radical tradition into the twenty-first century by turning its legislative sight on important contemporary issues of public health policy. For our children, the Bill provides new protections against the deadly dangers of tobacco, establishing a statutory register of retailers of tobacco and nicotine products and creating a new criminal offence of knowingly handing over tobacco or nicotine products to a person aged 18 years or under.

“For our children”. Immediate and blatant attempt to tug on the heart-strings of the other AMs present. The typical format of a politician seeking support of those that may be wavering. It’s more than a little distasteful that The Children™ are being used in the game of politics where the end result is the imposition of draconian measures that will only serve to have an overall negative impact on the health of the public that they are sworn to represent.

I now turn to the one matter of significant controversy contained within the Bill. As far as e-cigarettes are concerned, my own view remains that the measures contained within the Bill as originally drafted provide the simplest, clearest and most proportionate means of preventing the potential harm that could arise from the proliferation of e-cigarettes, while doing nothing to interfere with their use in harm reduction. Now, the state of evidence here remains contested, but where there is credible risk of harm—and that was the position underlined in oral evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee from the British Medical Association, the directors of public health in Wales, and from our own chief medical officer—then the precautionary principle should prevail. I am not prepared, and I do not believe that this Assembly should be prepared to do nothing in the hope that harm might not occur.

(emphasis mine)

The Bill, as originally drafted would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes wherever tobacco is prohibited. Which is to say, everywhere including the home (if it is “deemed to be used as a place of work”) and, if the Minister gets his way, in outdoor spaces like Parks, and beer gardens. This is the “simplest, clearest and most proportionate” means of preventing potential harms, apparently. However, in face of strong opposition Mr Benevolent has made, what some news outlets are calling a “climb down”.

while that remains my personal view, I recognise my responsibility, as a Minister in a Government without a majority, to attempt to craft agreement where differences of view persist. I have read very carefully those paragraphs in the Health and Social Care Committee’s report that advocate an approach that would limit the places where an e-cigarette cannot be used to those where the risk of renormalisation and their potential risk to children would be greatest. I will, accordingly, bring forward Government amendments at both Stages 2 and 3 of the Bill’s consideration, provided that it moves beyond Stage 1 today. Those amendments will define more precisely those enclosed and substantially enclosed public spaces where, in future, the use of an e-cigarette will be prohibited. Initially, at Stage 2, it is my intention to lay such amendments in relation to educational establishments containing students aged 18 and under, places where food is served, and public transport.

So, after reading the Health & Social Care Committee’s report he’s decided that instead of a blanket ban everywhere, he’s going to “introduce amendments” to the Bill that would limit the places where an e-cigarette cannot be used to ‘educational establishments containing students under 18, places where food is served (restaurants, bars and most likely your local social club if they happen to sell crisps) and public transport. Now if you were paying attention on Twitter you would have picked up on this little gem:


The key is the phrasing here. “This includes, but is not limited to…” which is effectively anywhere they feel appropriate, or where The Children™ may be found. So instead of a blanket ban, he is proposing amendments that are going to be.. a blanket ban. Standing ovation for mis-direction there.

Before I go into the responses from the other AMs, I just want to drop this in:

 today marks another important milestone in the journey of this Bill. I believe that the scrutiny process so far has been of significant assistance, and I look forward to Members’ contributions to that ongoing process during this debate.

Some more double-speak phrasing here, “I look forward to Members’ contributions” which of course means he’ll act like he is listening but in reality he’s probably off in cloud cuckoo land listening to that 13-year-old lad from Fife telling him what to do.

Turning now to some of the opposing speeches, kicking off with Darren Millar of the Welsh Conservatives:

But just turning for a few moments to the whole issue of e-cigarettes, it’s very clear from the weight of evidence we received as a committee that there is absolutely no evidence to support the approach that is being taken by the Minister, which he regards as being precautionary on the basis that there may be evidence of harm arising from the use of e-cigarettes in future. In fact, all of the evidence suggested that e-cigarettes were much, much safer for people to use than is the case for smoking tobacco. Public Health England’s piece of work, which collated evidence from a wide range of sources around the world, clearly demonstrated that. And, of course, the committee found that these were very much safer to use than tobacco smoking. The Minister contended that e-cigarettes were a gateway into smoking. All of the evidence suggests, actually, that they’re a gateway out of smoking for many people and certainly are leading to a reduction in the tobacco smoking that is going on in Wales among those who actually use e-cigarettes.

A grand start there. Pointing out that the evidence received does not support the approach taken by the Minister and in fact would actually be in direct opposition to the stated “opinions” of the Minister himself.

That is why there were so many voices, a chorus of voices that we heard, that were against the Minister’s proposals—the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, the Royal College of Physicians, Action on Smoking and Health Cymru, Tenovus Cancer Care, the British Lung Foundation, Cancer Research UK and many others suggesting that it’s a draconian approach like this that actually sends the wrong message about e-cigarettes to those people who are contemplating making the switch in order to improve their health. So I would ask you, Minister, to listen carefully to that chorus of voices—listen to their advice. I acknowledge that you’ve tried to make some concessions this afternoon but, frankly, they don’t go far enough. They still give a message that e-cigarettes are harmful to people’s health. I don’t want to send that message. I believe that it could lead to more public harm than public good for the health of this nation if that way is pursued. So I do ask you, Minister, to make some further amendments to the Bill and take out any restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes.

I do still find it strange that when it comes to tobacco, the Health Minister is all too content to listen to those organisations listed, but when it comes to e-cigarettes those same organisations “must be wrong”. At the end of that, Mr Millar calls for the e-cigarette proposals to be scrapped from the Bill. Just for the record, Darren Millar AM voted against the Bill, for a full list of which AMs voted in which direction, the summary is available here.

For this next little section, I’m going to bundle the Welsh Labour AMs into one inglorious piece, starting with Lynne Neagle:

As the Chair of the committee has said, the committee wasn’t able to reach a consensus and we did spend a tremendous amount of time looking at these issues. As far as I am concerned, although we’ve taken a great deal of evidence, I don’t feel that I have heard compelling evidence that supports the case to treat e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco cigarettes.

Lynne Neagle is in full support of the “middle road” as she calls it that doesn’t treat e-cigarettes in exactly the same way as cigarettes, but recognises that there may be a risk of normalising smoking-type behaviour, especially for young people. So, that is the option that I favour and I very much welcome what the Minister has said today in that he will be looking to bring forward amendments setting out the kinds of places where the use of e-cigarettes will be restricted. – For the record, and as a Labour AM she voted for the Bill.

John Griffiths

As far as smoking in public places is concerned, Llywydd, I would like to see us looking at further restrictions. We’ve seen ideas coming forward around restrictions on outdoor areas of cafes and restaurants, busy tourist beaches during peak season, and there are ideas of extending measures to city and town centres. I do believe that we should be adding to the restrictions to show the social unacceptability of smoking and the effects of passive smoking on other people’s health.

E-cigarettes obviously are very controversial, Llywydd. My own view is that we do need restrictions, and one reason for that is not to undermine that social unacceptability I just mentioned. We’ve made major progress in reducing smoking, partly because of that perception of social unacceptability, and I do believe that we risk renormalising smoking to the detriment of that progress if we do not impose restrictions on the vaping of e-cigarettes in Wales. So, it is a debate that we need to have, we are having, and I’m sure will continue as this legislation proceeds. But I wouldn’t want us to put in jeopardy that hard-won and extremely important progress in reducing smoking in Wales, which has been one of the big public health gains of recent years.

There is going to be little or no chance at swaying this chap. He thinks that the current anti-smoking anti-smoker isn’t going far enough, and is more than happy to impose draconian measures to the group that choose a different way of living by extending existing banned places to outside. He’s all for the demonisation and stigmatisation of smokers, and of course by extension vapers too. He of course voted For the Bill.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the Welsh Labour AMs are so deep into Drakefords bullshit that they are immediately supporting him, though I do wonder if some of them are starting to wonder just how crazy he is given some of the “evidence” that the Minister has been citing.

Now I’m going to have a look at Plaid Cymru, the “Party of Wales”. Interestingly, Plaid Cymru AMs were given the option to vote as they wished regardless of the official party line, which is open support of e-cigarettes and opposition to the proposed ban.

Elin Jones spoke on this first, it is wise to note that early on in this debate Jones was a fierce supporter of e-cigarettes, however this has wavered over the last few months for reasons unknown. However, her speech was reasonably balanced, and called for the section on e-cigarettes to be removed in totality to be considered as a separate entity something that is made clear in her opening remarks:

I have no doubt that the use of e-cigarettes is a very important tool to reduce or eradicate the use of tobacco. They are increasingly used by people to that end. This is a very important contribution to improving public health and improving the health of individuals who are addicted to tobacco cigarettes. Nothing should therefore be done that would put at risk these important steps that are taken by individuals and society more widely. That’s why, in my view, this legislation shouldn’t be passed in its current form, and that is why tobacco cigarettes shouldn’t be treated in exactly the same way as e-cigarettes. The simplest, most practical way of progressing, therefore, is to withdraw the sections on the use of e-cigarettes from this Bill and for the Government to introduce a separate Bill on e-cigarettes, which would allow further, more detailed consideration of the use of e-cigarettes and would also avoid any risk of the whole Bill falling on the basis of one section which is cause for contention to date.

Elin Jones then goes on to mention that Drakeford is unwilling for the Bill as proposed to be split to enable the matter on e-cigarettes to be debated away from other public health issues. That in itself is rather telling.

As the Minister is not willing for this legislation to be split—he has reconfirmed that position this afternoon—then this legislation does have to be fundamentally amended. We have heard from the Minister that he does have an intention to make significant changes to the legislation and to treat tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes very differently, through not introducing a general ban on the use of e-cigarettes in public places, but rather to ban them in defined areas—areas where the public congregate.

It is a little concerning that as an individual, Elin Jones is leaning towards the “compromise” put forward by Drakeford which does make me wonder what it is that has changed her mind to be less open in her support for e-cigarettes.

Some of us as Members have been attracted to that compromise as a way of continuing the debate on the ban of e-cigarettes in public places, and to achieve two important things: first of all, to treat tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes in different ways, reflecting the different levels of damage to public health, and secondly, not to run the risk of renormalising the activity of smoking, be that tobacco or e-cigarettes, in those areas where the public tend to congregate.

For me, there is a little of Drakeford in this part of her speech. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for her statement in opposing the Bill outright based on the e-cigarette section alone but this section of her speech has me a little worried. This would suggest that something (or someone) has said or done something to alter her views, it would be interesting to find out what that was.

Lindsay Whittle

The opening comments from Lindsay Whittle, another Plaid Cymru AM were, stark, to the point and brutal.

The key health targets for Wales: alcohol-related illnesses, tobacco cigarette smoking, obesity, children living in poverty, the need to increase immunisation levels, and tackling substance misuse. Add mental illness to this list and you would have the most vital public health issues on which the Welsh Government needs to take action. And what are we talking about? Vaping. I mean, no-one is going to argue against the suggestion that matters covered in this Bill don’t deserve some attention, but please, let’s get our priorities right. Please look more closely at the evidence for and against the banning of the use of e-cigarettes as and when more and better evidence becomes available. Do not jump to hasty conclusions. I believe strongly that the Government’s targeting of e-cigarettes, trying to put them in the same box as tobacco, is ill informed and misunderstands the point of them. I believe it dangerously misunderstands the potential value in helping people to quit tobacco.

In other words, there’s a lengthy list of public health issues that deserve far more attention yet e-cigarettes and vaping (I like how he refers to it as vaping, it demonstrates to me a great deal of support). He squarely calls the Minister out on his “targeting of e-cigarettes” as “ill-informed” and goes as far as saying that the Minister misunderstands the point of them. Right there. That on its own deserves a standing ovation. Lindsay Whittle has just openly called the Health Minister, misguided and ill-informed. What better way to start a 5 minute speech?

His speech in full:

I’d like to focus on a number of areas, particularly from the committee stage, which underscores the wrong direction of this Bill when it comes to vaping. In paragraph 110 of the committee report, the work of Public Health England and ASH is noted, which showed a study in which 20 per cent of those questioned now believe that vaping is as bad or worse than tobacco. This is a mistaken view. It’s a view that has taken hold in part because of actions like those the Government want to take. If the position of authorities becomes one where, for all intents and purposes, vaping is treated the same way as tobacco, then it should surprise no-one when people continue to smoke tobacco. This is what I believe will happen. Treating these products with pariah status will lead to many people who want to quit but needed the help of e-cigarrettes being put off their use. How many lives could potentially be lost in this way?

The issue of shared shelters we spoke about. It’s an important point. I believe this will normalise vapers with smokers, and I believe an error has been made by the Minister when he said, and I quote directly:

‘People are making choices here, and nobody is forced to use an e-cigarette or a conventional cigarette or to stand next to anybody else who is using either.’

Now, this view, with the greatest of respect, Minister, because I have respect for you, demonstrates a lack of understanding and, maybe, a lack of empathy on the nature of addiction. Of course, in theory, everybody could stop smoking tomorrow; we could all stop drinking or those people could stop using drugs or even cheese—I wish I’d never said that. [Laughter.] But, the point of addiction is that it’s a habit that becomes a requirement for some people, and simply dismissing the legitimate concerns of those who have fought and battled—battled—to stop using tobacco on their worries of having to be exposed to tobacco smoke when they’re vaping or trying to quit is almost offensive now.

So, look, I’m concluding—I’m good on time—by asking: when did ‘the evidence is not conducive’—another quote—become a rallying call to ban something or regulate something? What there is clear evidence of is that e-cigarettes have helped millions of people to stop smoking tobacco or seriously reduce their intake. People have quit smoking after decades of smoking. They’ve become resigned to a fate of never being able to quit, and now they can. E-cigarettes have brought hope and better health to countless numbers of people. There are people in this very room who have stopped smoking, even, by using these devices. The worst decision we could make now would be to start treating these products the same as tobacco by being overzealous. We cannot allow our anti-smoking prejudice, and the distaste with the behaviour of smoking, to overcome our goals for sound evidence-based public health decisions.

I would like the Government to withdraw the vaping measures from this Bill. Keep the options open to revisit the issue in future, but these measures are the wrong decisions at the wrong time. For that reason, I will be voting against the general principles today, and I urge other Members to do exactly the same and join with me, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Lung Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Action on Smoking and Health, Drug Misuse Research, the Royal College of Midwives, Lloyds Pharmacy, Tenovus, the British Heart Foundation and Public Health England—the list goes on. I rest my case.

I don’t think much more needs to be said there other than, bravo Lindsay Whittle. There is a gentleman that actually gets it, he really and truly gets it.

Moving on to Jocelyn Davies, another member of Plaid Cymru:

I think I ought to start by declaring an interest in this debate because I vape myself. I have, in fact, given up smoking several times using various methods, but have recently settled on a vaping device to help me to continue not to smoke tobacco. I want to ensure that the perspective of someone who actually uses a vaping device is heard in this debate today. The Government, I think, has displayed a startling lack of understanding of the behaviour and the motivation of those who smoke and those who have chosen to move towards vaping devices to help them stop or reduce their smoking.

It seems that Plaid Cymru are going to be a big thorn in the ass of Welsh Labour over this particular aspect of the Bill. First Elin Jones, then Lindsay Whittle and now Jocelyn Davies. Labour are looking beleaguered, yet thoroughly determined to ensure that the prohibition of e-cigarettes is included in the Bill.

I understand it can seem baffling that smokers repeatedly choose to do something they know is seriously damaging their health, and there is very little rationality to addiction. However, unless we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of the smoker or the vaper and understand their perspective, any policy designed to influence their behaviour will fail.

This is the point right here. “Unless we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of the smoker or the vaper and understand their perspective any policy designed to influence their behaviour will fail“. This is a key point to the debate, wherever in the world it may be. Many policy makers do not understand us yet they try to impose regulations on us to “influence our behaviour” in a way that suits them, yet without key understanding of us, any policy will fail. This is also a fundamental failing of the EU and the accursed Tobacco Products Directive.

He goes on:

We must remember that cigarettes are an incredibly reliable delivery device for nicotine to smokers, and any nicotine substitute has to compete with that. Vaping devices are a lifeline for an increasing number of people who smoke, whether using a device to cut down or to give up altogether.

The health benefits of reducing the number of cigarettes smoked is clear. Putting this in the same bracket as tobacco cannot be the right thing to do. The Welsh Government, I think, is in danger of stigmatising a tool that has helped many people reduce the amount they smoke. Making vaping less visible and more difficult to get hold of will not promote public health, and forcing vapers to stand outside with smokers will make it more difficult to give up. Far from the Government’s concerns that vaping devices normalise smoking, from my experience, seeing people vaping normalises the use of an effective tool that has helped many people to give up.

I admit that vaping is new and little is known about it. The long-term impact is not known to us, and I think it’s important to remain sceptical about claims that you can put a numerical value on how much better your health is than if you were smoking. We don’t know yet, and taking chemicals into your lungs must have implications; it must have. But, Minister, there are other things—sugar, perhaps, alcohol, car emissions—that are doing considerable provable public harm right now, but do not face the same attention from you. So, the Minister’s precautionary principle rings rather hollow with me, as it did with Kirsty Williams.

We can safely discount any suggestion at all that vaping serves as some sort of gateway to smoking. The Government is yet to provide any credible evidence of this happening at all, despite, I would imagine, searching very, very, very hard for it. Common sense alone will tell you that the image of vaping is far, far removed from the glamour that once surrounded smoking. However attractive vaping devices appear, vapers look incredibly unglamorous and people will not be attracted to it by how it looks. I would not vape in front of any of you, so there.

Health benefits are clear, compounding e-cigarettes with tobacco is a bad idea and sends the wrong message. More needs to be done for long term safety (which we already know), vapers aren’t glamorous (OK, I’ll give him that one, I’m definitely NOT glamorous, though a few of my fellow advocates could definitely qualify).

Plaid Cymru:

  • Elin Jones – Abstain
  • Lindsay Whittle – Against
  • Jocelyn Davies – Against

Finally, I move to Kirsty Williams leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. I’ve not placed any emphasis on the ordering here except how they appeared in the Senedd speeches. Kirsty would have been far earlier, but bundling Labour and Plaid Cymru speakers together seemed the most logical course.

I am, for brevity’s sake going to skip the opening remarks of her speech and kick off coverage with:

However, let’s face it, this Bill, at present, doesn’t have a great deal to say about some of the great public health challenges that we face as a Society—around obesity, our addiction to trans fats, our addiction to sugar and our inability, often, to create access to forms of exercise. Now, I appreciate that the Minister says that he is open to ideas, and one idea I hope he will be open to is that of the inclusion of health impact assessments by both central government and local government.

Reading between the lines here, Kirsty is saying that while the Bill is a step in the general right direction, there are other matters of public health that have not been addressed at all, though she does hope that the Minister is being honest in his statement that he is “open to ideas”.

The Minister began by defending his stance by invoking the precautionary principle. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the precautionary principle, but to be precautionary it is necessary to take all effects into account; the effects of over-regulating as well as under-regulating. It is my belief that, before legislating, we need to take the precaution not to lose the undoubted benefits of moving people off traditional tobacco and onto vaping devices.

Kirsty Williams is quite clear here in that the precautionary principle is all well and good, but to abide by that principle there are positive and negative effects to take into account. A clear example of the “negative” effects of the precautionary principle (as applied by the EU) is the TPD. The comment of “it is my belief that, before legislating, we need to take the precaution not to lose the undoubted benefits”, is a clear indication to me that the proposals in the Bill, much like the TPD, will do far more harm than good.

Her full speech follows:

As we heard from Cancer Research UK and eminent chest physicians, we could prevent literally tens of thousands of premature deaths if we could persuade those who are addicted to traditional tobacco products to move on to e-cigarettes. As the British Heart Foundation told the committee,

‘Cigarettes kill one in two of their long-term users. A smoker switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes is moving from a more to a less risky behaviour and it is wrong to seek to discourage this…we believe that these proposals will not improve public health in Wales and may, in fact, have the potential to damage it.’

That was a view that was shared by Tenovus Cancer Care, and only last night the British Lung Foundation e-mailed all Assembly Members to ask them to vote against the provisions of this Bill. None of those organisations could be accused of being apologists for the tobacco industry. They deal day in, day out with the consequences of the tobacco industry, and they see value in keeping a very clear distinction between traditional tobacco and vaping.

Let’s talk about the gateway effects. ASH Cymru’s survey showed that regular use of e-cigarettes by never-smokers was absolutely negligible at 0.16 per cent. There is no evidence—none at all—that these products act as a gateway to traditional tobacco products. They are used practically exclusively to enable those smokers to cut down on their tobacco usage or to quit altogether. I am very fearful—very fearful—that if we treat these products in the same way, the research that has been carried out by other people, that demonstrates that people take the decision not to switch because they equate the two products as being equal, equally dangerous to their health, and therefore there is no value in switching, will be detrimental. A Stage 1 debate, Presiding Officer, has asked us to make a judgment on the principles behind the legislation. This Bill seeks to enhance and promote public health in Wales. As it is currently drafted, the inclusion of the e-cigarettes measure does not do that, and therefore we cannot support it.

So we’ve heard from the Welsh Conservatives (13 AMs, 2 did not vote, 11 against) in opposal to the Bill, Plaid Cymru who are having a free vote (out of the 11 Plaid AMs listed, 3 did not vote, 1 abstained, 1 supported while 6 opposed), and the Welsh Liberal Democrats (5 AMs all opposed the Bill). You would think that given the weight of the evidence, and the impassioned speeches as outlined here and in the full transcript that there would be greater opposition to the proposed e-cigarette restrictions.

Of course, Drakeford had a final say:

As far as e-cigarettes are concerned, Llywydd, I don’t intend to repeat the debate we’ve heard this afternoon. The one thing that I do very much disagree with Members who take a different view is—not because they take a different view, because it’s perfectly possible to come to a different view on this matter. I do absolutely think that Members who have said here this afternoon that there is absolutely no evidence to quote, that all the evidence, that there is no evidence at all on the side of the argument that the Government has brought forward—I think they are simply misunderstanding the position. There is ample evidence—you may not agree with it. Of course you may not agree with it, but to say that there is no evidence at all when this is evidence in the top peer review journals that you will see: evidence of a gateway effect published only last week as a result of Scottish research; evidence of the normalisation reported in a random control trial in the leading American journal in this field. I’m not asking you to agree with the evidence;

So, in summary Drakeford not only states that Members’ are entitled to come to a different view, but that (and I quote) “that there is absolutely no evidence to quote, that all the evidence, that there is no evidence at all on the side of the argument that the Government has brought forward—I think they are simply misunderstanding the position. There is ample evidence—you may not agree with it. Of course you may not agree with it, but to say that there is no evidence at all when this is evidence in the top peer review journals that you will see”.

In other words, the evidence presented in opposition is in direct conflict with the evidence he believes to be true. Considering that he referenced the “result of Scottish research”, which was actually an appallingly bad story about the study in a Scottish newspaper. The actual researcher has gone public to denounce this story in the strongest terms. Her study didn’t prove that, she says; it didn’t even research that. In fact it didn’t talk about e-cigarettes at all. The media reporting was based entirely on a quote from one of the children. That’s it. That was his basis for some “recent” gateway ‘research’. Stunning isn’t it?

I do think you need to have a greater sense of the fact the evidence is closely balanced here and it is possible to come to different conclusions on it. Nothing that the Government proposes will stop e-cigarettes from being used where they are an important public health tool. It is right, I believe, to act in a precautionary way where the risk is real.

The evidence isn’t closely balanced at all Mr Drakeford. All we’ve heard in opposition to the proposal is “opinion” from a Trade Union and unelected officials that tend to hold swanky parties on the taxpayer while simultaneously preventing them from bearing witness. I cannot see the balance in that. His closing remarks are a prime example of hubris to the highest degree:

I could have spent all my time, as some other Members have done, listing the list of people who agree with the position that I’ve outlined, from the World Health Organisation onwards. And on their evidence, I believe that the precautionary principle should prevail.

Based on the evidence from the WHO, BMA, PH Wales (to name the three primary candidates), the precautionary principle to impose draconian legislation that has absolutely no basis in solid, repeatable evidence is to prevail.

There’s only one word for that.


Medicines for a Consumer Problem

There’s a problem that those in power want to solve. Or more to the point, they don’t want to “solve” it at all. They want to “control” it. That “problem” is smoking, which to my mind isn’t a problem at all. It’s a choice people make. Yes there’s an “addictive” side to it, yes there’s a big cost to it, and yes there are some risks associated with it. But you know what? I don’t care. If folk want to smoke than that is down to them. Their life, their choice end of story. Almost. Continue reading “Medicines for a Consumer Problem”