EU's pointless Tobacco Products Directive wouldn't prevent an exploding 'mech'

The Daily Mail yesterday published the story of Andrew Hall of Idaho in the US who suffered burns and injuries when his e-cigarette exploded while he was getting ready for work.  Naturally, many people will be horrified and ask questions about the safety of vaping, but it is important to note that the circumstances are highly unusual. Mr Hall was using a device known as a ‘mech’, which can be unstable if in the wrong hands. Mechs are early adopter ‘unregulated’ technology which require a very good standard of knowledge before anyone even attempts to use them. In this case, however, Mr Hall had contravened basic rules of battery safety, and was completely unaware of the enormous stress he was placing on the power source with the extremely low resistance self-made coil he was using. It was a disaster just waiting to happen. Continue reading

Our aims for 2017

The Freedom to Vape campaign was launched in August 2016. That's just five months ago. I have run political campaigns for many years, and I know better than most how difficult it is to get a new idea up and running, but what we have achieved in such a short space of time has surprised me.  The report we published on the vaping policies of UK councils shocked many people. It highlighted just how out of date council policies are, and some councils have already stated that they are reviewing their policies. The report has been read in Downing Street and the Department of Health is aware of it. I was fortunate enough to speak at the most recent meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for e-cigarettes at the beginning of December and took the opportunity to inform MPs and Peers about the report. I also spoke to Prof. Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, and he is supportive. Real progress is being made.  This is the time of year when we make plans - so what about 2017?  Continue reading

Free market leads the way in tobacco harm reduction

I attended two events in London yesterday which highlight just how much the free market is leading the way in tobacco harm reduction. The first was a reception in Strangers' Dining Room in Parliament, hosted by Philip Morris International (PMI). I was pleased to see many different senior MPs in attendance, from both sides of the House of Commons, including some Ministers and former Ministers that you wouldn’t usually expect to see at a tobacco event. That’s probably because of the big new things PMI are trying to do. For the last couple of weeks I have been evaluating PMI's new IQOS. As many reading will be aware, IQOS heats tobacco, rather than burning it, and as a result, PMI beleives that it is around 90 per cent less harmful than smoking a combustible cigarette. It has proved popular in Japan, and yesterday it went on sale in London. Anyone who doubts PMI's claims should know that they’re inviting Public Health England to check the data and come to their own conclusions as to how safe the product is, which even ASH seem to agree is a good idea. This is a wise move, as although it is insulting to say that scientists working for tobacco companies are economical with the truth when it comes to the claims that are made about new products, no-one will be able to throw that insult at scientists working for PMI.   Continue reading

Hartlepool Borough councillors' vaping ignorance on full show

In our recent report on the vaping policies of UK councils, Hartlepool Borough Council responded by saying that it "requires staff and customers to use tobacco and/or e-cigarettes off site away from entrances to buildings". I therefore wasn't surprised to read this headline in the Hartlepool Mail: "Vapers cautioned over use of electronic cigarettes".  The council's Audit and Scrutiny Committee met recently. Addressing the meeting was Carole Johnson, the council's Head of Health Improvement. She said: “All the evidence is saying they are a safer option to smoking cigarettes. We must be saying that to people because a lot of the population believe they are harmful. “We should be getting the message across that they can be a real aid to quitting smoking.” So far, so good, but then the people's elected representatives waded in with their size nines.  Councillor Rob Cook, vice chair of the committee, said: "There are conflicting stories that there is still a danger because there are carcinogenics in whatever this liquid is.” Continue reading

Thoughts from 'The E-Cigarette Summit'

I didn't know that the e-cigarette summit was taking place this week until I received an email about it on Monday evening. Many thanks to Amanda Strange, who organised the event, for allowing me media accreditation at such a late stage on Tuesday. So yesterday morning, I set-off for the Royal Society to spend a day discussing the science, regulation, and public health issues around vaping.  It was a packed programme - too packed in many ways. The breaks were curtailed because we were not keeping to time, which meant that you didn't have a chance to finish your coffee and use the lavatory. As I discovered to my cost on a couple of occasions, sacrificing the latter meant I had to leave the conference hall to answer the call of nature.  Continue reading