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Vaping Post : For our readers could you introduce yourself in a few words?
Gerry Stimson : I’m not a smoker, I’m not a vaper – but I’m and expert on harm reduction. I’m a public health social scientist, and helped invent drugs harm reduction back in the late 1980s when we needed to find ways to prevent the spread of HIV.
When I first heard about e-cigarettes I realised that here was a golden opportunity for tobacco harm reduction. Over the last five years I have become an ardent advocate for e-cigarettes. I set up the Global Forum on Nicotine, with Paddy Costall, to help take forward discussion on e-cigarettes and other lower risk nicotine products.
VP : Why did you create « a forum » about « nicotine » ? What is it about ? What is it aimed at ?
GS : Alternative nicotine delivery products – including e-cigarettes – are rapidly changing the landscape of tobacco control and smoking cessation. Many people are finding new ways to switch from smoking. It’s a remarkable social movement – a consumer led market solution to a health problem.
There has been no help from ‘Public Health’ experts – to the contrary, many of the so-called experts have been hostile to vaping and vapers. There are now new questions for science, for policy, and product standards. And when you can deliver nicotine without smoking tobacco, it begins to change our view of it. So, we wanted to create an event where people could discuss these issues: that’s why we started GFN.
VP : What is your targeted public? Who is attending this event ? What are the main expectations of the attendees ?
GS : This is our third event. We bring together a wide range of people at GFN – vaper consumer and advocacy groups, public health experts, policy and market analysts, parliamentarians, researchers, media and people from companies that make e-cigarettes – both independent and tobacco companies.
Last year we had people from 44 countries. It’s a lively event – and it’s great to see people from different sectors talking with each other. It’s like no other conference. Last year’s highlight was installing Hon Lik as patron. This year’s highlight is the European premiere of the documentary A Billion Lives.
VP : As the TPD is about to be enforced, what will be the core questions of the debates, this year ?
GS : A lot of peple are worried about the impact of the TPD on product availability and consumer choice. There will discussions on ‘disharmony’ in the implementation of the TPD, and sessions on EU standards.
Vapers from all the main consumer organisation in Europe will discuss new campaigns, including on the upcoming WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control meeting in India in November. WHO has been hostile to e-cigarettes and sees them as a threat to public health. We need to encourage country delegations at FCTC to speak up for the health benefits of e-cigarettes.