Vapers in Power was given two passes to attend the E-cig summit. I went along with Paul Barnes (FDM blog). We are very grateful to the Summit for giving us the opportunity to attend. This post just aims to give an impression of the day itself from an advocate’s perspective. The Ashtray Blog and and Facts Do Matter have already given very informative accounts of what happened.
Vaping advocacy is a very online affair so getting away from the keyboard and actually meeting people in the vaping world is always a surreal experience. This one took the (posh) biscuit though.
The Royal Society is a very impressive setting and I could have happily spent a long time wandering about in there (doubt the staff would have welcomed that though). It’s a beautiful Georgian building, designed by John Nash. It’s huge with enormous rooms and a staircase which goes off both ways at the bottom. You could easily imagine balls taking place there. It was a very plush affair with top notch cheese straws and Twinings tea.
In terms of vaping advocates it was a who’s who. Networking was obviously of paramount importance and so I didn’t really do any (!). I met a few people who I’ve “seen” and communicated with online- always one of the best aspects of real world vaping events. I loved meeting them all: if I ever get stuck in a lift I hope it’s with another vaper. The vaping community is populated by clever, funny, compassionate and very individual (often off the wall, in the best way) people. (“Unconventional” is probably the word I’m struggling for.)
The programme was jam packed. The organisers and the chair, Ann McNeil, managed to keep the timetable on track. This was no mean feat (Dr F!). They did it very diplomatically, with humour and charm and without looking ruffled. Honestly (and I have already declared my COI here, free pass) if I ever needed to host a posh event (unlikely as that is) I’d be gutted if Amanda couldn’t organise it. The programme (8.55 am to 5.30 pm with 3 breaks) packed in 18 presentations plus 4 panel debates. Oliver Kershaw couldn’t do his presentation so it finished on time. By the end my head was buzzing with Powerpoint slides. Professor Abrams at the end was a relief partly because his presentation centred on shapes (that was kind of the point of his presentation too).
Oliver not presenting was a real shame because it would have been the only presentation given by someone who represents consumers. Andy, Lorien and Sarah from the New Nicotine Alliance did a fantastic job on behalf of vapers but they only appeared in the panel debates: the NNA didn’t have a presentation slot. Andy Logan (Vape Emporium) was the only vendor voice, again only in a panel discussion.
I appreciate why the presentation slots were dominated by tobacco control, scientists, regulators and various public health people, reasons hinted at in the introduction in the programme too:
“What I hope the Summit will do is facilitate understanding around the areas of deepest concern for scientists, consumers, public health and industry.”
Yes it’s a crucial time to be influencing the regulators and policy makers, including the delegates from the Department of Heath and the MHRA who were there. It’s true too though that the vaping revolution only happened because we vapers wanted it and the vendors and manufacturers sprang up to supply us. Is the commitment to “Nothing about us without us” (voiced by some of the speakers) only lip service? If so is this an inevitable consequence of the PHE review and the acceptance of e-cigs amongst many professionals: do they feel compelled to take ownership? If memory serves me well (it doesn’t always!) there was a slide from Roseanne O’Connor of PHE listing the stakeholders who had been consulted. There was no mention of consumers on that slide, unless we were referred to by an unfamiliar acronym. (please also see Alan Beard’s excellent post on this)
Charlotte “Many studies indicate harm” Pisinger deserves an enormous clap on the back for turning up and the organisers need to be applauded too for getting her there. Apparently other naysayers were invited too but declined the invitation. Charlotte deserves a lot of respect for that imo, makes her a decent human being. She looked nervous, probably expecting to get lynched by the nasty vapers she’d heard about (of course she wasn’t). No questions were encouraged at the end of her presentation so Dr Farsalinos asked her one in the panel debate instead-she still didn’t answer it but it was good try.
I wondered why Louise Ross didn’t have a presentation slot (maybe she presented last year). Andrea Crossfield (Tobacco Free Futures) gave a presentation about stop smoking services’ perceptions of vaping. It was filled with the obvious. That’s probably why so much of this is frustrating: we are waiting for professionals to catch up with what we already know, and they can’t because they have to have evidence (otherwise they wouldn’t be professional!). I was really surprised to hear Louise say (in the panel debate) that prescribing ecigs probably won’t help because variety is too important to users. I’d have expected a stop smoking practioner to be pushing for prescription ecigs so I was stuck (yet again) by the integrity that Louise has.
Jim McManus was fantastic. The Summit was filmed so hopefully everyone will get the chance to see his presentation. He’s since published a brilliant blog post which anyone concerned with vaping and public health needs to read.
The Summit reinforced my impression that the professionals in our corner (such as Linda Bauld, Clive Bates, Dr Farsalinos, Peter Hajek) are very genuinely passionate about this. Some of them have swum against the tide for a long while, at risk to their professional reputations. Brave people – we are lucky.
At one point me and another delegate, Andy Morrison, found ourselves outside on the forecourt (in order to vape unrestrainedly) and the doorman asked us not to smoke (“any sort of smoking isn’t allowed”). We moved and he later apologised for not realising that vaping isn’t smoking. That real world difficulty wasn’t addressed in the Summit though. Peter Hajek gave a presentation about how to deal with misconceptions about nicotine (i.e undoing the harm done by decades of minsinformation by tobacco control). The common misconception that vaping is smoking really needs to be tackled too.
Something else which needs to be addressed urgently is how schools should deal with vaping. I hope that PHE are developing a fact sheet for that (along with the vaping in the home one which they mentioned).
Also I’d have liked to see more discussion about the part which decent vendors play in getting people onto vaping. It’s remarkable how the best vendors are so skilled at supplying smokers and vapers needs, without having had any state guidance or interference at all to help them do it. I’m not suggesting that regulation in this area is desirable (quite the opposite) but it could have been helpful to have a session evaluating what good practice is and how it can be shared with all vendors and stop smoking services.
It’s unrealistic to expect a one day event to address all the issues –and that’s probably why the agenda was so crammed. I should say too that at the end the organisers really did their best to get vapers to comment and ask questions and I’m ashamed to say that it’s only now I’ve thought of several.
The time is right for an Advocacy Workshop – watch this space!