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Freedom To Vape report makes depressing reading for Brits

Libertarian advocacy group The Freedom Association released its latest report into how British local councils are treating vapers this week, and the results paint an alarming picture. Despite the relatively positive approach to vaping by Public Health England and other agencies it seems the attitude of councils is actually getting worse.

The picture that emerged is of a local government system that’s continuing to crack down on vapers.

The Freedom To Vape campaign, run by the association, first contacted councils in 2016 to ask them how they regulated the use of vapour products by their staff and on their property. This year they repeated the survey and compared the results to see what had changed. Alarmingly, the picture that emerged is of a local government system that’s continuing to crack down on vapers despite the messages coming from national bodies.

In 2016, 112 councils were forcing people to vape in designated smoking areas. This practice has been condemned by various government agencies – even ASH claim to oppose it – but, this year, the number of councils who enforce it has actually risen to 126. The survey also asked councils if they plan to debate the government’s new Tobacco Control Plan, which includes e-cigs as an anti-smoking tool; over two-thirds said no, and just over a third are considering reviewing their policies in the next year. Only 7% have firm plans for a review.

Freedom To Vape found the attitude of councils “worrying”, particularly the fact that decisions seem to be made by council executives while elected councillors are excluded from the process. The campaign’s report calls on all councils to end the policy of making vapers use smoking areas.

Quit smoking service replaced by vape shop

A council-run stop smoking service in Gloucester, UK has been replaced by a vape shop, in another sign that market-led alternative products are replacing traditional stop smoking services as the number one choice for Britain’s smokers. Public Health England are now reporting that e-cigarettes are the top choice among smokers who want to quit, and the numbers attending official quit services continue to fall steeply. It seems that councils are now deciding it’s too expensive to keep their clinics open with so few people using them, and they’re being closed or merged; Gloucester’s now shares an office with the council’s alcohol and obesity services, creating a one-stop shop for people who want the government to run their lives for them.

If current trends continue, a lot more smokers will be helped by the vape shop than ever were by the council.

Meanwhile, the quit service’s former premises have been taken over by Evapo, a national chain of vape shops. If current trends continue, a lot more smokers will be helped by the vape shop than ever were by the council. This is at least the second UK vape shop to replace an official stop smoking service.

Mendelsohn and McRobbie deliver pro-vaping message at Melbourne conference

Australia’s notoriously anti-vaping public health community was shaken up on Monday when two prominent researchers challenged their views at the annual Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference in Melbourne. Professor Colin Mendelsohn of the University of New South Wales, and New Zealander Hayden McRobbie from Queen Mary’s University, London, told an audience of tobacco control professionals that encouraging smokers to switch to vaping would benefit public health. They argued that while long-term health risks can’t be fully ruled out, there’s now a consensus that vaping is far less harmful than smoking – and, because it gives the same sensations as smoking, it’s far more popular than traditional (and ineffective) quit aids.

“The sooner these products are legalised in Australia, the more lives will be saved,” Mendelsohn told reporters.

McRobbie added, “For those smokers who won’t or can’t quit, the next best thing would be to switch to vaping.” These messages will be welcomed by Australia’s e-cig users, but they’re likely to be controversial among the country’s tobacco control reactionaries.

Musician fined for vaping on a plane

South Korean reggae musician Ra Guk-san was fined a million Won (around $900) last week, after being found guilty of using an e-cigarette on a Korean Airlines flight from San Francisco to Incheon. Ra was caught vaping by cabin staff midway through the flight, and arrested when the plane landed in South Korea.

Ra was lucky that he was caught in February.

While vaping in flight poses no danger to the plane or other passengers, airlines are taking an increasingly hard line on it. Ra was lucky that he was caught in February; in March the law was tightened, allowing maximum fines of up to ten million Won.

  • Mark

    ”…creating a one-stop shop for people who want the government to run their lives for them.”

    Nicely put.

  • Robert Harvey

    its bad enough that certain places in the UK have banned vaping inside despite the government directive not to treat vapers the same as smokers but to add injury to insult many workplaces insist vapers use the same area as smokers when there is often plenty of room outside workplaces for vapers to stand away from smokers.

    • Mark

      To be fair, Government is a very recent and very partial convert to the notion that vaping isn’t a tool of Satan, and most of its parts still haven’t got the message due to the prevalence of vape hate in the tabloids. Employers won’t change their tune until the government starts sending a clear message that vaping is a solution, not a problem, and for Government, “evidence based” usually means “evidence we won’t lose tabloid support or votes” on issues like this. In other words, any change is going to be slow coming.

      • Robert Harvey

        I would hardly say “Government is a very recent and very partial convert to the notion that vaping isn’t a tool of Satan” since they declared in a press release that “E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco” way back in August 2015 and more recently Routine bans of vaping products at the workplace or in public spaces should cease, the DoH notes, in order to “maximise the availability of safer alternatives to smoking”.
        the clear message has been sent, its just that employers aren’t listening.

        • Mark

          Certainly some parts of government have pointed out the benefits for some time, but the message across government as a whole is very uneven and often extremely lukewarm.

          One page I came across 3 or 4 months ago on the main NHS site said something along the lines of “some smokers have found e-cigarettes a useful aid to quitting”. Not negative, but hardly resoundingly positive. NICE are only due to update their advice on e-cigarettes as part of quitting next year – it was last updated in 2008. PHEs 2017 Stoptober campaign included e-cigarettes as a viable smoking cessation tool in their TV ads for the first time – certainly a bit late to the party, and that’s PHE.

          Meanwhile the list of places where vaping is treated exactly the same as smoking and banned is only growing, and doing that contains a message to the public in itself. The tabloid fearmongers run endless negative articles, and with a deficit of positive responses and rebuttals of the stream of negative press from government the Mail and friends are the ones whose messages are sinking in. The link below shows how well they’re doing.

          http://augustafreepress.com/uk-parliamentarians-urge-government-use-full-potential-vaping-smoking-cessation-tool/

          There is a recognition that the response across government needs to be more unified, positive and given a wider airing, but that recognition has been very slow coming.

          • Robert Harvey

            although I agree that the UK gov needs to do a lot more to promote vaping as a safer alternative and especially send the message that vaping should not be banned in public places and workplaces with a few exceptions where of maybe food is consumed or prepared the message that e-cigarettes are safer has been there on the UK.gov website for a good while whether everyone likes it or not, I will say however that they need to shout a lot louder to get this message heard where the stoptober advert was just a whisper.

          • Mark

            Yes, they need to do a LOT more – that UK.gov statement is unlikely to be seen by many given that it doesn’t even make the top 100 results on google for “is vaping safe?”, a feat even the US FDA and the New Zealand gov can manage. The results are however dominated by negative press, topped by a finger waggy article from the Scientific American, although the BHF and NHS are well placed. Given how people find information, this matters.

            The government can and does move mountains in public perceptions if it chooses (the 80s heroin adverts spring to mind), as it has done with smoking. Until they decide to put their backs into it public perception will continue to be led by articles with titles like the Telegraphs “Vaping as bad for your heart as smoking cigarettes, study finds” and just about anything the Daily Mail publishes on the subject. Proof can be found in the wealth of stats showing a sharp increase in the negative public perception in the UK of how safe vaping is compared to smoking.

            As Mark Twain said “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes“.

          • Robert Harvey

            totally agree with your assessment.