Words are cheap, something John Bercow should remember

Words can be cheap. They only mean something when they are backed up with actions. This is something that John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, should remember. I agree with other commentators that Bercow was wrong to politicise his office in the way he did, informing the House that he would block a request for Pres. Trump to speak in Westminster Hall. If he can get away with it, Bercow will also block any request for Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery. Continue reading

Australia's backward step

Australia could do with a large dose of liberalism - and I mean the proper variety, not the sort doled out by nanny statists who call themselves liberal when they are anything but. The opening line of the Australian national anthem is, "Australians all let us rejoice, for we are young and free." Well, not as free as you would think. Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has announced it will keep its current ban on the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. The reasons it gave are just a rehash of the tired and discredited arguments used here in the UK. It said that legalising nicotine in e-cigarettes will normalise smoking again. The argument goes that if you try and give up smoking through vaping, you will encourage teenagers to experiment with a pack of 20 cigarettes. As Professor Colin Mendelsohn, a Tobacco Treatment Specialist in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at The University of New South Wales, put it, "After ten years of overseas experience, there is no evidence that they act as a gateway to smoking in young people, in fact they appear to be replacing smoking in young people rather than encouraging it.". He went on to say, "The TGA decision appears to be driven more by ideology than science and will cost the lives of thousands of Australian smokers.” Quite.  Continue reading

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