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 It highlighted just how out of date council policies are, and some councils have already stated that they are reviewing their policies.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?
Councils are responsible for public health. Councils should be leading the way, so it is essential that they adopt new evidence based research policies. With a lot of effort, this is an achievable aim.
We will be pushing the Government to scrap the counterproductive restrictions imposed on the vaping industry in the EU's Tobacco Products Directive. At a conference I attended last November in London, Alette Addison from the Department of Health said that was impossible before Brexit. That is a typical civil servant's response. The default answer to any request is invariably no. If the political will is there, it can be done. It requires effort from not only this campaign, but from all groups who represent vapers and the vaping industry.
We will be actively promoting those businesses who welcome vapers into their pubs, restaurants, and cafes. We will be setting-up and organising a 'Vapers Welcome' scheme for businesses to join.
Finally, we will also be defending the rights of those who choose to use other tobacco harm reduction products, ensuring those who use them do not face unnecessary restrictions. It's more to do with education than anything else, but it's important work and it needs doing.
The above is not an exhaustive list. I am sure there will be many other issues that will crop up throughout the year. I just wanted to state the main aims to let you know where the campaign in going in 2017.
The Freedom Association relies on the generosity of our members and supporters to fund our campaigns. Freedom to Vape costs roughly £50,000 a year to run. If you are in a position to help us financially, please click here to go to our donations page. If you are in a position to make a regular monthly donation, please contact me. Anything you can give to support our work will be used wisely and is, of course, greatly appreciated.