Electronic Cigarettes are not uppermost on the political radar of most MPs or MEPs. In ‘Realpolitik’ our elected representatives, most often make decisions on individual belief, their own experience or the information that is presented to them rather than from facts that they have personally carefully researched.
MPs and MEPs have a very heavy workload, their attention is inevitably drawn to politically critical issues – big things, like the current European economic condition are understandably foremost in their minds. It is not surprising that the issue of medical regulation of electronic cigarettes is not seen as important by many of them as it is by we vapers. Inevitably busy MPs & MEPs will allow their response to electronic cigarettes to be largely informed by party position or advice from the likes of the MHRA whose job should be to give unbiased guidance through good research and a thorough understanding of the issues.
Unfortunately the MRHA, either through incompetence or bias, have failed to truly reflect the current position of electronic cigarettes, the range of available devices or their effectiveness as a tobacco harm reduction tool. This blindness, whether wilful or not, has precipitated in their advice that medical regulation of electronic cigarettes would be in the public interest. Many MPs and MEPs will act on this advice without question, being either disinterested or too otherwise occupied to do anything else.
Vapers Positive Alternative
The vaping community knows that electronic cigarettes are excellent tools for tobacco harm reduction, we preferentially choose to vape instead of smoke. We know that electronic cigarette’s unhindered design and development over the last two or three years has resulted in a wide variety of effective electronic cigarettes that ensure that we have no interest in returning to using tobacco - and which also have the potential to convert millions of smokers to this safer alternative.
It is imperative that this positive message is effectively communicated to MPs and MEPs so as to help them make informed decisions and recognise the potential sea-change in the future health outlook of the smoking population that can be enabled by allowing the current growth trend of electronic cigarettes to continue to develop, unhindered by stifling regulation, the likes of which will only serve to reduce innovation and increase costs and thus negatively impact on the burgeoning increase in their use.
Vicky Ford MEP visited ECigWizard (Pictured)
It was against this background that ECigWizard were very pleased to receive a visit from Vicky Ford MEP at the beginning of August. Her visit gave ECigWizard the opportunity to demonstrate the professional standards to which they adhere, to show her a range of available vaping gear and explain the importance and potential of electronic cigarette technology.
Oliver Warburton, one of three directors at ECigWizard said that “she was extremely supportive and as a result of her visit to Ecigwizard HQ, she’s actively lobbying for the vaping community now”. Vicky Ford’s own Twitter feed said of her visit “Thank you @ecigwizard for telling me how #ecigs have helped change lives.”
It is very encouraging that when someone like Vicky Ford MEP gets first hand knowledge of the currently available electronic cigarettes and is enlightened as to the important roll that they can perform, the outcome is supportive. It might be considered self-evident that MPs and MEPs lack the information on which to form an informed view and thus act to encourage, not hinder, the continued adoption of electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking - for if they possessed this knowledge I believe that very few would be sufficiently morally (or otherwise) corrupt enough not to support us. It is incumbent on vapers, electronic cigarette vendors, trade and consumer associations to engage in getting MPs and MEPs onside by providing them with the information that they need.
There are many MPs and MEPs who, unlike Vicky Ford, have not seen fit to visit the major vendors of electronic cigarettes. Maybe they feel that the topic of medical regulation of electronic cigarettes is insufficiently important to justify their time and effort needed to be spent in finding out the facts for themselves or maybe they have been blinded by the advice or party position imposed upon them so as to have closed their minds to other views. Whichever the case, public pressure is a very persuasive tool - by writing to your local MP and MEP and explaining why it is important to you personally that electronic cigarettes are not regulated as medicines, we can ensure that their awareness of this issue is raised.
Vicky Ford MEP is a most impressive lady. Her website states that “Before becoming an MEP Vicky was a local councillor, and an active campaigner on a wide range of issues. Prior to becoming involved in politics, Vicky was a managing director of a major international bank. Most of her 14-year career in banking from 1989 to 2003 was with JP Morgan. She has been involved in raising money for infrastructure, including roads, railways, telecommunications and electricity networks across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She worked with many of Europe’s largest companies as well as advising national governments and central banks.”
Of her roll as an MEP it says “Vicky Ford was elected a Member of the European Parliament in 2009. She is the Conservative Spokesman for Industry and Research on the Parliament’s ITRE committee, which also includes work on energy. She is also a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and was the Conservative Spokesman for this committee from 2009-2011. Vicky has been the rapporteur for the Parliament on offshore oil and gas safety and the fiscal framework directive which seeks to increase transparency and accountability of public spending. In addition, she has worked as shadow rapporteur for the European Conservatives and Reformist Group (ECR) on energy efficiency legislation and all research funding matters, as well as bank capital requirements, deposit guarantee schemes and residential mortgages. She campaigns to reduce bureaucracy for business, to reduce the EU budget and to end the Strasbourg two seat circus.”
The European political groupings that could be broadly described as Liberal or Right wing are generally less supportive of the proposal to regulate electronic cigarettes as medicines than are their Left wing counterparts. Unfortunately this more enlightened attitude is not shared by the current political Alliance in Westminster who, in common with the Labour party position, is supportive of the MRHA statement. Martin Callanan MEP, the Conservative shadow draftsman on the TPD legislation as it passes through the main Environment and Public Health committee is quoted as saying “Conservative MEPs will be doing everything possible in the European Parliament to ensure a sensible approach to legislation. We are not helped in this however by the UK’s Department of Health. It is vital therefore that we build and demonstrate public support for e-cigarettes to change the policy of the Department of Health.”
Emma McClarkin MEP (Conservative) also makes some very encouraging statements about electronic cigarettes. On her website there is an article entitled “A real drag as European Parliament threatens to take electronic cigarettes off the shelves” in which she is quoted as saying (after the recent TPD vote) that “To classify e-cigarettes as medical devices is absolutely ridiculous and we have consistently called for them not to be considered as such. Thousands of people have given up smoking thanks to e-cigarettes. For the EU to now over regulate them is completely counter-productive and hypocritical. However, this vote is not the end of this process and we will be working to make other MEPs see sense and support e-cigarette producers and users. The world has gone mad when tobacco itself is less regulated than products designed to help end tobacco use.”
It is evident from the above that at least some MEPs have understood our cause. Some MPs have too – Mark Pawsey MP for example, who gave an excellent speech in the House of Commons (which can be seen on YouTube). However there are not yet enough sufficiently informed legislators, for us to avoid the implementation of electronic cigarette medical regulation proposals. We must unite in encouraging those MPs and MEPs who recognise the roll that electronic cigarettes can and do perform and we need to redouble our efforts in informing and educating those who currently appear to be sleep-walking along the path signposted by Big Tobacco and Big Pharma whose interests lie in restricting the electronic cigarette revolution that could otherwise be possible.
As always, the views expressed herein are my own and are not necessarily those held by ECigWizard