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 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A council-run stop smoking service in Gloucester, UK has been replaced by a vape shop, in another sign that market-led alternative products are replacing traditional stop smoking services as the number one choice for Britain’s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.
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.
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.
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.