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What happened at the first U.S. E-Cigarette Summit

The first U.S. E-Cigarette Summit in Washington took place this May and array of videos have made it online documenting proceedings. Vapers won’t be interested in much of what happened, but there are a few things worth picking up on, giving vapers were effectively indirectly in focus throughout the event. Moreover, plenty of vaping advocates across the country centered on Washington for the event.

Ken Warner’s speech

Despite being a tobacco control guy, Professor Ken Warner is one of the best figures on the opposition side, since he has shown a willingness to not only listen to the vaping argument, but accept many of the points made. An economist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Warner kicked off proceedings at the summit and offered clarification on why there was a division among tobacco control advocates when it comes to e-cigarettes.

Warner has warmed to the idea of tobacco harm reduction, saying that “exclusive reliance on the tools of the past” will not finish off combustible cigarettes for good. And he’s right.

Furthermore, Warner is such a great person to have speaking up for vaping given the respect that he has garnered over the years in tobacco control circles. If he can change his views, then there’s hope others will follow suit. Warner commented on the accusation that there’s a “vaping epidemic” among teens with a salient point that any rise in teen vaping could simply be a fad. It’s a new, high-tech, relatively safe product, so there’s obvious appeal.

The statistics show Warner’s take is an accurate one, with the most recent data showing teen vaping rates have fallen, along with smoking rates in general. If the youth aren’t vaping as once feared, then the anti-vaping arguments lose steam, and if combustible smoking rates are falling too, then vaping is doing the job for those it’s intended to. It’s a win-win.

Matthew Myers from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, gave perhaps the most-awaited speech of the Summit, and if you know Myers, then the mistruths and outright lies he gave on the FDA’s deeming regulations won’t surprise you one bit.

Myers’ influence is what’s most frustrating, and his influence with the Democratic politicians we need supporting us at that. The myths he peddles ignores the harm reduction abilities of vaping, and fails to recognize that all the FDA’s deeming regulations will do is benefit big tobacco.

As far as Myers is concerned, the FDA is acting with the public’s health in mind by trying to further regulate e-cigarettes with the deeming regulations. Myers claims that these regulations are flexible. Yet while he rambles on about the supposed protections offered by the FDA, he totally ignores that it was RJ Reynolds – a Big Tobacco stalwart – that produced the blueprint the FDA used to draw up the final edit.

However, Myers’ association with Big Tobacco in the past, he worked with Philip Morris in writing the Tobacco Control Act, indicates his loyalties may lie elsewhere. We have a situation where PMTA’s are going to be forced on independent vape companies, while Marlboro escapes it – a situation effectively engineered by Matthew Myers. Big Tobacco’s profits are up, while smaller businesses continue to be squeezed and forced out of the industry altogether.

Myers would like to see cigarette companies, like British American Tobacco, dominate the vaping market as well. In addition to dirtying the name of vaping, this would be another tactic to help Big Tobacco protect its profit margins. A morally defunct position, that’s why Myers speeches on vaping and e-liquids are so annoying and damaging.

Deborah Arnott of ASH-UK

The UK is much more progressive with vaping and the hope was that Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH-UK would counter Myers’ points quickly and efficiently. This, unfortunately, failed to materialise. She got too caught up in the Cole-Bishop amendment, the nitty-gritty of the FDA’s deeming rule and then her thoughts wandered into the British situation. Well-meaning stuff, maybe, but unhelpful.

Vaping advocates hoped that Arnott would talk up the independent vaping industry and breathe some lie into it, but she went against that in decrying the Cole-Bishop amendment. Moreover, her “solution” to simply change the deeming predicate date with a bill is no solution at all, more kicking the issue into the long grass until Congress can adjust the Tobacco Control Act.

You don’t have to be that cynical to wonder whether Myers played a part here. According to some, Myers and Arnott met for lunch prior to the Summit, and that his misinformation confused Arnott on the U.S. vaping situation, which would explain why she did us no favors. Whether Myers had a direct influence or not, there’s no denying that Arnott’s speech played right into his hands. As long-suffering vapers well know, vaping politics is a very dirty game.

The future

That we have even had an E-Cigarette Summit has to be considered a good thing – debate forums are better than no conversation at all. But there’s also the feeling that many of the people who spoke at this Summit are so far removed from vaping and e-cigarettes that they can’t truly acknowledge much of what vapers face. For example, much of the harm reduction and smoking cessation talk at this Summit was pretty pointless, since those talking didn’t seem to realise the harm reduction already in existence!

Ultimately, the vaping industry has been created by smokers, who know the issues and how to address them. We don’t really need others coming in from the outside and telling us what we’re doing right and wrong – that millions of Americans have been helped by vaping proves we’re doing something right. The worry is that those discussing the deeming rule and the Cole-Bishop amendment aren’t fully clued up on the overall vaping picture, and as it doesn’t directly concern them, they don’t really care what regulation gets passed and the impacts of the deeming rule on real people.

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