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.”
Try doing some homework before you attend a committee meeting, councillor. If you do, you may just know the answer. But pontificating from a position of ignorance is not an unusual sight in town halls across the country, so perhaps I am being too hard on him by singling him out in this way.
Committee chair Ray Martin-Wells said:
“We do err that there is still a doubt as to the 100% safety record of e-cigarettes."
Someone else who can't be bothered to do his homework. No-one has said that e-cigarettes are 100% safe. The Royal College of Physicians has said that they are at least 95% safer than smoking combustible tobacco. If he had bothered listening to the council officer present who spoke about e-cigarettes as being a "safer option" he wouldn't have made that comment. He has probably never even heard of tobacco harm reduction, let alone understand what the term means.
Hartlepool Borough Council's smoke free policy is up for review next year. I hope and pray that the two councillors I have named do not have a chance to influence it. In the meantime, I will send the council a copy of Hertfordshire County Council's new vaping policy. It should serve as a template for all councils across the UK.