Open Letter to all my Representatives

This letter is intended for all MPs, MEPs and Lords.

Thank you for your varied replies to my correspondence, it is appreciated that you take time out of your busy schedules to read and reply.

Unfortunately I am dismayed at the wide variety of those responses, not to mention the boilerplate responses which are intended to say very little other than provide some limited platitude. Those boilerplate responses did not address any of the concerns I had raised. It is a classic fobbing off and I am incredibly disappointed that you have felt it necessary to do that, to put it mildly.

This issue is important, not just for me but for 2.8 Million current vapers and for 9.6 Million current smokers. This issue has arisen due to unnecessary interference from the EU and will now be considered a factor by many in the upcoming Referendum.

The Tobacco and Related Products 2016 legislation that has been transposed from the EU Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU), specifically the sections related to Article 20 of the Directive, will have far reaching consequences that have not been considered in the Impact Assessment[1] considering that one of the stated aims of the Directive is “to harmonise the EU market” – a noble idea with one fatal flaw – at least 15 Member States have no implementation of the Directive, some Member States have “gold plated” the Directive – specifically, banning cross border sales, which is against one of the stated aims:

To reduce obstacles to trade in tobacco and related products within the EU by reducing differences between the regulatory regimes in different EU Member States.

Further to the UK Government’s own Impact Assessment, Action on Smoking & Health[2] and their own commentary on certain aspects of the legislation[3] specifically related to the limitations on nicotine strength available under this legislation ignores one of the key reasons why electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes/vapourisers) have worked for so many (2.8 Million UK users) – the pleasure principle[4], and grossly underestimates the effect that the nicotine strength limits will have[5].

I am one of that 2.8 Million that will be negatively impacted by this legislation, because I made a choice on June 11th 2014 to switch to vaping, but this isn’t about me. This is about the 9.6 Million adult smokers in the UK[6] and giving them the choice to switch to an alternative to smoking. Both Public Health England[7] and the Royal College of Physicians[8] have released reports on this subject, and both are proposing that e-cigarettes are part of a harm reduction strategy:

However, in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.

The limitations being imposed by the transposed Directive – the 10ml refills, 2ml tank size and limits on nicotine strength will have serious negative consequences for recent and new switchers. It is a matter of record that the research the EU used to draft these limitations was grossly misinterpreted[9], and sadly the science continues to be misinterpreted, or worse ignored.

It has become astonishingly clear that some are intent on keeping this legislation in its entirety despite the furtherance of research into the subject of vaping. Recently a Fatal Motion in the House of Lords had been proposed for debate, now that Motion has been changed to a “Regret” motion alongside two other motions[10] and an urgent debate under Standing Order 24 in the House of Commons has been deemed “not proper” to be discussed under So24[11], yet a debate on this subject is exactly what is needed.

The legislation, as it stands – and specifically the transposition of Article 20, is in a vital time where the portion directly related to e-cigarettes could have been nullified by the House of Lords thereby opening the way to regulating these products in a far more proportionate manner, allowing new users to switch if they wish and allowing existing users – both experienced and recent switchers – to continue using these devices to remain smoke free.

I urge you, my elected representatives, to open urgent debate, be open to both sides and give 9.6 Million smokers the same choice I myself made almost two years ago,  and 2.8 Million vapers the opportunity to continue to choose the alternative to smoking.

Paul Barnes

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Stand up, be counted

Ah social media. Both a boon and a burden. I had the dubious pleasure to be introduced to another anti group yesterday which set me to headbutting my desk repeatedly.  I posted a (relatively) short blog yesterday which covered some of their tactics. Continue reading “Stand up, be counted”

A General Letter to Tobacco Control Advocates & Public Health

To All in Tobacco Control & Public Health,

Yes I’m speaking to you, and for once please listen instead of going glassy eyed and reaching for the infamous block button.

I vape and I’m not going to go away, nor am I going to stop vaping.

That’s right, I use an e-cig (or ENDS if you prefer the term coined by the WHO).  I prefer to use it because I no longer want to smoke tobacco.  Please see the difference here.

Definition of “smoke”

a visible suspension of carbon or other particles in air, typically one emitted from a burning substance.

Burning generally indicates combustion.  Burning indicates setting something alight or aflame.  Neither of which are ever found in vaping.  Instead a mixture of Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerin, Nicotine and some flavouring is heated and subsequently evaporated into a mist or vapour.

Evaporation is a type of vaporization of a liquid that occurs from the surface of a liquid into a gaseous phase that is not saturated with the evaporating substance. The other type of vaporization is boiling, which is characterized by bubbles of saturated vapor forming in the liquid phase

There is a big difference between “smoke” and “vapour”. I do not vape tobacco.  I do not smoke tobacco.  There is no tobacco in an electronic cigarette liquid.  So by those very definitions, I am not smoking a traditional tobacco product, but instead I am consuming Nicotine which although is derived from tobacco it is not tobacco.

By your own admission, you are “waging war” on tobacco and believe that you are actually winning.  You may be right, to an extent.  Traditional tobacco smoking is on the decline, I’m not going to disagree with that.  The amount of extra chemicals and substances found within a tobacco cigarette are disconcerting, especially as most have links to disease.

You banned tobacco advertising and sponsorship to lower the public profile of cigarettes.  It didn’t completely work, people still smoked.

You raised the cost of tobacco products by taxing them.  This too, didn’t completely work, people still smoked. They just had to spend more to continue to live with their choice.

You decided to add graphic images and bold warnings about possible risks.  Guess what?  That didn’t entirely work either, people just ignored them and continued to live with their choice.

You decided that retailers had to “hide” the products from general public sight in stores behind shutters, at a vast cost to the retailer.  I’ll bet you can guess how that went right?  Yep, hasn’t worked as anticipated.  All you’ve done here is cost the retailer lots of cash, which they’ll make back by increasing prices everywhere else so everyone paid for this idea.

Your latest trick is to have “plain packaging” – I seriously doubt that this is going to work either.  Having been a smoker through your previous attempts to coerce me to quit, I smoked anyway despite your best efforts.  Taxing them? fine, it just costs me more. Banning ads? fine, I know what I want anyway. Graphic images and bold text? completely ignored, I was well aware of the potential risks.  Hidden behind shutters? that didn’t stop me either.

So you see Mr (or Mrs) Tobacco Control Advocate / Public Health Official, all your attempts to win the war on tobacco have had an effect but not the effect you really wanted.  A lot of still-smokers, don’t really care about what you want, they have made their own choice to continue to smoke.

Now we move on to e-cigs.  These devices are most definitely viable alternatives to smoking.  They are inherently safer, by orders of magnitude safer.  Note that – safer. They are not 100% safe, is driving your car 100% safe?

As vapers, we know exactly what is in the liquid.  We know that PG is deemed “safe” for consumption. We know that VG is deemed “safe” for consumption.  Same for the flavourings.  We also know that nicotine on its own is no more addictive than caffeine.

Nicotine Health Benefits – yes it may be addictive, although some research indicates that it is not addictive as we have been led to believe, but does have certain effects which are beneficial.

Studies show that those that do actually give up smoking regain most of their health (lung function, energy levels and so on), as a vaper I too am regaining lung function and general overall health benefits. So when your “advocates” call the vaping community “industry shills”, “trolls”, “anecdotes”, or they completely ignore us can you imagine how that makes us feel?

For years as smokers, we had been demonised, ostracised, excluded, villified because of our choices.  Now that we have made another choice to use something that you didn’t think of we are once again, demonised.  We are ostracised. We are ignored. We are villified.

I tell you now, we’ve gone through annoyed, taken a left into frustrated, round the corner into bemused, turned right into irritated.  We’ve sped through to anger, broken through despair and are now thoroughly entrenched on the motorway of incensed.

We want you to listen to us. To talk to us. To learn from us.  We do not want you to continue this campaign of fear mongering PR.  We do not want you to bury your collective heads in the sand hoping we’ll go away.

You may be coming for us, but we won’t be going quietly into the night.

Bring. It. On.