Tuesday, 1 December 2015

An Open Letter to Assembly Members

Dear Assembly Members,

Next week (8th December) you are going to get the opportunity to debate the contents of the Public Health (Wales) Bill. As you will be aware, certain aspects of the Bill have proved to very contentious from the outset. This has been exacerbated by events that transpired as the Bill passed through the scrutiny of the Health & Social Care Committee.

The HSCC has now released its report of the scrutiny of the Public Health (Wales) Bill. The majority of the report reveals widespread cross-party support for most of the aims of the Bill. However, it also showed a deep divide over the issue of eCigarettes.

The Welsh Government has provided no credible evidence to proceed with the ban. In fact, during the evidence sessions several organisations comprehensively dismantled and dismissed what little evidence the Welsh Government did produce. Opinions were heard from a number of sources (though not from vapers themselves).

Compelling positions against the proposals to ban eCigarettes in enclosed public spaces came, in person, from the likes of ASH Wales, Cancer Research UK, Royal College of Physicians, Public Health England (through Prof Peter Hajek) and Professor John Britton (Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies) during the evidence sessions. All of these organisations/people have conducted extensive peer-reviewed and published research and studies into the effects of eCigarettes.

Substantial more evidence against any ban on eCigarettes was also received from a variety of well-respected organisations in written format.

It should be obvious that there is no credible evidence for implementing a ban on eCigarettes and those AM’s who sit with their fingers in their ears ignoring the evidence are doing a serious disservice to the lives and health of not only vapers and their families, but also smokers (the potential vapers of the future) and their families. Today, in eCigarettes, we have an innovation that offers a genuine (and healthier) alternative to lit tobacco. It is a phenomenon widely recognised by the leading scientists and public health professionals across the world. The recent report published by Public Health England recognised that eCigarettes are at least 95% safer than using lit tobacco. Yet here in Wales, we have a Health Minister that wants to ban the use of eCigarettes in enclosed public spaces and places of work based on his own ideology and misunderstanding of the science.

As one of the estimated 240,000 Welsh vapers who has successfully quit smoking through the use of an eCigarette, I implore all AM’s to look at the evidence and vote with the science, not by blind loyalty to a party (or Health Minister) who simply is unable to understand the science behind eCigarettes. I tried time and time again to quit using many or all of the recommended methods, services, and products, and failed. With eCigarettes I succeeded, and my friends and family are delighted that my success will result in my being around for a long time to come. Thanks to vaping, I have been smoke-free for almost 5 years. This should be a cause for celebration.

Do not take away the opportunity I had to quit smoking, from others who have yet to make the switch. By banning vaping in public enclosed spaces, you will be removing their opportunity to meet with vapers and learn all about this life-saving device. I have lost count of the number of smokers who have approached me in pubs and clubs, on the streets and even in vape shops, curious to learn of my experiences with vaping and how it all works. A great many of them have now also kicked their smoking habit thanks to discovering vaping. I can assert with confidence that by banning vaping in public enclosed spaces, you will be taking away the opportunity of smokers to learn of the benefits of switching to vaping.

Nothing in life is risk-free. Even the drinking water that comes through our taps holds chemicals and risk. Mark Drakeford keeps asserting that we do not have enough evidence and that he is following the precautionary principle. This  is a very misguided policy to be following. In the 1980’s, we did not have the level of science on condoms and safer-sex that we have right now for eCigarettes. But most in Public Health agreed that the precautionary principle applied there. So what is different about eCigarettes ? A lifeboat is most certainly not 100% risk-free, but how many of us would refuse to use one if the ship in which we were sailing was about to sink causing certain death ?

Many of us had resigned ourselves to smoking for the rest of our lives, having failed on so many previous occasions. But then we found vaping and a new community of understanding and supportive friends.

I implore you. Go with the evidence, not with party loyalties. The evidence will clearly show you that eCigarettes save lives. If the ban goes ahead, significantly fewer smokers will switch to a less harmful alternative and many vapers will return to smoking. Is this really what you want to see ?

Open your eyes to the evidence and oppose the ban. You know in your hearts and minds that it is the right thing to do.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

From The Absurd To The Ridiculous - The (Bumbling) Madness of Mark Drakeford

The longer the saga of Mark Drakeford's ridiculous plans to ban ecigs in enclosed public spaces, the more absurd his 'evidence' and plans become. So much so that even the most fervent Labour AM must surely now be questioning the wisdom, if not the sanity, of the Health Minister.

Because all the evidence in the UK works against his proposals, he chooses to use (discredited) studies from the USA to try and shore up his plans. Even last week he was at it again, using discredited USA studies as 'evidence' to back his stance. I am not going to go through what was in his written evidence, rather Alan Beard has summed it up rather nicely here so I would advise you to go and read it for yourself.

On top of that, some of the biggest names in Public Health and Tobacco Research (such as Profs John Britton, Peter Hajek & Linda Bauld) have all recently appeared in front of the Health & Social Care Committee and told them why it would be wrong to ban eCigarettes in enclosed public spaces. Despite this, Drakeford still claimed (in front of the HSCC) that these eminenent people did not know what they are talking about and that he knows better.

The latest episode (reported here ) means that Welsh Vapers could find themselves up in court for vaping in their OWN home. Yes, you did read that right. You could be happily vaping away in the comfort of your home, but if you receive call from work on your mobile phone or happen to receive an email from work whilst at home, it will turn your home into a workplace. Therefore, you can then expect the local council enforcement officers to come barging through your door and cart you off to appear before the local court to be charged with vaping in a workplace. Of course, it might not just be in your home. It could happen anywhere if you just happen to answer a work-related call or read a work-related email. 

George Orwell's 1984 anybody ?

This is how Mark Drakeford's mind works and shows just how desperate he has become in his bid to ban vaping. One can only conclude that Mark Drakeford needs serious psychiatric help as he is becoming more and more deluded as each day passes.

Fortunately, the opposition parties remain opposed to his plans. As Labour does not have a majority in the Senedd, Drakeford must rely on doing a deal with one of the opposition parties to get his Public Health Bill voted through into law. I would be very disappointed (and concerned) about any party that agreed to that.

However, if Mark Drakeford is deluded in his plans, then what does that say about any Labour AM's who still stick behind him on this ?

This is the Nanny State gone mad and is a serious assault on our personal human rights and civil liberties. The State has no right poking thier noses into our private lives. If they get away with that, they will soon be back for more powers on other things we might enjoy doing in the privacy of our homes.

I have said it before and I will say it again. Studies consistently prove that eCigarettes pose no harm to either the vaper or those in the vicinity of the vaper. Even Drakeford has been unable to refute this. So it makes his proposed ecig ban not only not-evidence-based, but also immoral and illiberal. It is also so obviously unenforceable.

eCigs save lives !!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Welsh Labour Obfuscation & Control Freaks

Those expecting (hoping ?) for an honest and open debate on eCigarettes by Welsh Labour will do well to look at how Welsh Labour actually respond to criticism. This week in particular will have opened the eyes of many into how the Welsh Labour hierarchy respond to criticism from within its own ranks as the First Minister promptly sacked one of his own AM’s – Jenny Rathbone – for simply daring to question the expenditure on the M4 relief road.

With behaviour like this, is it any wonder that Labour AM’s are afraid to go against the Health Minister on the subject of eCigarettes ?

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed evidence being presented to the Health & Social Care Committee that completely eviscerated each and every piece of ‘evidence’ introduced by the Health Minister in his quest to ban eCigarettes from public enclosed spaces. Furthermore, a study by the Welsh Government itself failed to find a single vaper who was not an ex-smoker. 

So what did the WelshLabour do ? Why they chose to ignore it of course, even trying to bury the results (unsuccessfully) and instead pointed to evidence from the USA – evidence that Welsh Labour and attempted to misrepresent and which was comprehensively shot down by Profs Linda Bauld, John Britton and Peter Hajek when they appeared before the HSCC.

Put on top of that the decision by the First Minister to discontinue access to ministerial decision reports, the constant number of times that supposedly open scrutiny/evidence meetings that are suddenly held in closed session and the evasive way that the First Minister answers any direct questions in First Minister Questions then is it any wonder that there is public distrust ?

Welsh Labour’s answer to any criticism is to close ranks and adopt the “La-la-I’m-not-listening’ attitude.

Yet next May, these same Labour politicians will be asking us to vote for them in the Assembly Elections and trying to tell us that they are the only people we can trust.

It’s about time that Welsh Labour realised that AM’s are elected to represent the PEOPLE, not toe the party line and hide in shadows anything that they don’t want us to know.

The words ‘Transparent Government’ and ‘evidence-based policy making’ appear proudly on the Welsh Government AND Welsh Labour website. Those two statements are the biggest lies being told in UK politics.

It’s about time the Welsh Public woke up to this fact and voted these charlatans out come next May or else Wales is doomed to be forever a third-world country hanging on the coat-tails of England !!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Illiberalism and Social Exclusion

I am of an age that I can distinctly remember the kind of signs commonly seen displayed in the windows of the myriad of pubs and other buildings that I witnessed during my childhood in the 1960’s & 1970’s. During those days (and I dare say the decades before) it was not uncommon to see such signs saying ‘No Itinerants’, ‘No Gypsies’ and even on occasion ‘No Irish’. I dare say that in the decades before those, it might even have been possible to witness such signs saying ‘No Blacks’. 

Fortunately, society has moved on greatly since those days, and in the decades since those times laws have rightly been enacted to make such racist and discriminatory signage illegal. Furthermore, in recent times we have seen homosexuality decriminalised and latterly LGBT rights have moved on to equality such that they can now legally get married (for example). It has to be said that we have moved on to a much fairer society where most people are treated as equals.

You should make a keen note of the word ‘most’ in that last statement. I deliberately used that word because whilst society has made great strides in equality amongst the aforementioned subjects, it seems to be rapidly turning into reverse against other segments of society. A different type of discrimination is now rapidly coming openly and unabashed to the fore.

Whilst no politician or public health figure will admit this, it is evident that there is an undercurrent of intolerance sneaking back into society. You can see it in the news headlines every day. In any newspaper on any given day, you can always find a headline somewhere that is determined to persecute the obese, those who enjoy alcohol, smokers, and now vapers. We have the likes of Aseem Malhotra and Jamie Oliver telling us that as a society we are too fat and that we should be cutting down on our sugar intake. We have the Institute of Alcohol Studies telling us we drink too much, aided and abetted by the Scottish, Irish and Welsh Governments trying to impose Minimum Unit Pricing legislation to try and address the same so-called ‘problem’. We have just about everyone and his dog attacking smokers and making them feel like they should adopt the practice of medieval lepers of ringing a bell and shouting ‘unclean’ to warn others of their presence. Now, in recent years, we also have various aspects of public health, the BMA, and even governments attempting to curb vaping.

The common theme amongst all of this is that people are now being attacked for their lifestyles. This is something that should not be the business of anyone else but the person concerned. It is certainly not the concern of people like Jamie Oliver or Aseem Malhotra, organisations such as public health or the BMA, or even the concern of government. Now we also have Labour’s unbelievably illiberal prejudice against meat eaters thanks to their latest Shadow Minister for Food and Rural Affairs. 

We are adults and we can all make informed choices in how we live our lives. We do not need to be NANNIED.

It is completely illegal to discriminate against the LGBT society or the Traveller society based on their lifestyle choices. So why is it then acceptable to discriminate against vapers, smokers, drinkers or the obese based on their lifestyle choices ?

Over the past few weeks, I have been following the progress of the Welsh Government’s Public Health Bill through the Scrutiny and Evidence Sessions of the Health & Social Care Committee. Last week saw the BMA and the Royal College of GP’s give their ‘evidence’ on why they believe the Welsh Government is right to ban the use of ecigarettes in enclosed public spaces. However, throughout their session, they both failed to produce any actual evidence whatsoever. The best either of them could come up with is the vapour produced by ecigarettes is a pollutant and that it smells, that the flavours (especially the sweet/fruit flavours) are appealing to children and proof of marketing to children, and that nicotine is a drug that is ‘highly’ addictive. That was it. The sum total of their argument boiled down to those points. The problem is that they are completely wrong.

  1. The vapour exhaled has only trace levels of any chemical pollutant (inclusive of nicotine). Environmental Studies conducted by many leading scientists have proved this.
  2. Vapour does not hang in the air and dissipates very quickly
  3. Vapour may well have an aroma, but is it any worse than the smell of a man or woman who is absolutely plastered in perfume/after-shave ?  After all, by its very nature, perfume/after-shave is a cocktail of chemicals.
  4. Studies have shown that nicotine in itself is not very addictive at all. It only becomes addictive when mixed with the myriad of chemicals produced by a burning cigarette. Those chemicals are all absent from an ecigarette
  5. eCigarettes are an adult product. That they have sweet flavours does not mean they are being marketed to children. The sex industry produces many edible/sweet flavoured sex aids. Are those evidence of the sex industry targeting children ?  Adults like sweet flavours too !!

This week saw Labour’s Alun Davies completely fixated on the fact that some ecigarettes contain nicotine and that by moving from tobacco to ecigarettes, users were merely substituting one nicotine habit for another. It is extremely worrying that a person in a position of power, like Alun Davies is, cannot get his head around the fact that nicotine is not harmful. In his opinion users should be looking to quit nicotine completely. Why ?

What vices does Alun Davies have ?  Does he enjoy a pint of beer or a glass of wine ? Is he one of these people who simply cannot function in the morning until he has had his first cup of coffee/ tea ?

I’ll bet good money that Alun enjoys one or more of the above mentioned habits. Beer/wine contains alcohol. Coffee/tea contains caffeine. Both are drugs. Numerous scientists have stated that nicotine in itself is no more harmful than caffeine, and much less harmful than alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol is most certainly addictive and many proponents argue that caffeine is also addictive. So why is Alun Davies not also campaigning for people to give up alcohol and coffee ? Because he likely enjoys them himself, that’s why.

I find it interesting to note the hypocritical double-standards of Welsh Labour. For example, if a pub landlord was to refuse to serve someone from the Traveller society because he felt that Traveller smelled bad, then he would face the full force of the law telling him he is being discriminatory. However, it is (apparently) perfectly acceptable for Welsh Labour to legislate against a vaper enjoying a perfectly legal habit that is causing no harm to either himself or others and socially exclude him from enclosed public spaces because he/she (allegedly) smells. That is called an Oxymoron and is also an affront to Human Rights.

Earlier in the week, I witnessed the (un)Health Minister presenting to another committee. In that Committee, he made the startling statement that he was ‘unprepared to wait 8 years to find out whether there are health concerns over ecigarettes and that he must act now’. By doing so, the Health Minister is happy to broadcast the message to the Welsh Public that ecigarettes are no better than tobacco cigarettes. 

However, we already know that ecigarettes are at least 95% safer than tobacco cigarettes. There has been abundant evidence to back this up. Even the BMA and RCGP recognise that vaping is safer than smoking. Professor John Britton is often quoted as saying that ‘there is no circumstance where it is safer to smoke than to vape’. 

By misleading the Welsh Public on ecigarettes the Health Minister is saying that he is perfectly happy to see thousands of Welsh citizens die of smoking-related diseases while he waits for evidence that ecigarettes are safer – evidence that already exists by the bucketload. What an absolutely disgraceful  and irresponsible attitude for a Minister, supposedly responsible for Health, to take. 

Welsh Labour likes to portray itself as a party of the people, as a party that champions social injustice and rails against social injustice. The evidence presented here shows them to be very much the opposite.

Welsh Labour are a party promoting social exclusion. That social exclusion comes from a basis of prejudice, not evidence. They are unable to legislate against on vapers based on harm, so instead they look to legislate based on prejudice and dislike.

Labour of the past had a central role in the dismantling of many social injustices and prejudices that existed in the past, and that I discussed in the opening paragraphs of this blog. Labour of the present is guilty of returning those social injustices and prejudices by victimising other groups simply because they don’t agree on how those groups choose to live their lives.

Welsh Labour is an illiberal party guilty of social exclusion.

I actually like my local Labour AM. I genuinely believe that Mike Hedges is a good man who has his heart in the right place and that he works hard for his constituents. He is also very approachable and an amiable man to converse and discuss issues with. Unfortunately, as Mike represents the illiberal, socially exclusive Welsh Labour party, then I cannot in all good conscience vote for him in next May’s Assembly Elections. That vote will be going to another party.

The only way Welsh Labour will redeem this situation is by stopping their illiberal attitude, activities and persecutions of the personal lives of the Welsh electorate.

eCigarettes save lives. Leave us alone and we will save many more.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Vapefest 2015 - A Personal Perspective

So, VapeFest 2015 weekend has been and gone. Now that I have had the chance to digest all that happened, I've decided to put some of my thoughts to paper on my experience of the event.

So there I was, Friday lunchtime, studiously going through all the gear I was going to need for the coming weekend. Tent - check, camp bed - check, sleeping bag - check, coolbox (full of booze) - check, vape-gear - check, enough eJuice to sink a battleship - check, and so on and so forth. I must have checked that I had everything several times over and was still convinced I had forgotten something (and so it proved - more later), and so at precisely 1.15pm I reversed my car off the drive and started the 3 and a half hour journey from Swansea to Shrewsbury in blazing sunshine. For once, Vapefest was going to enjoy good weather for the weekend.

At precisely 4.30pm, I was driving into the Vapefest campsite and seeking out a suitable spot to pitch my tent. Having identified a suitable location and proceeding to erect the tent, I was met by a familiar female voice. Turning around, I found myself facing Katherine Devlin (ECITA) and Bella (her dog). Quite by accident, I found I had pitched my tent almost directly in front of where Katherine and Tom Pruen had erected their ‘mini-village’ (the Wasters Arms to the uninitiated) - which turned out to be the base-camp for quite a number of familiar faces (who by chance had also pitched up in the same area). Tent set-up almost complete, I heard another familiar voice hailing me. This time it was that of Rhydian Mann who, along with his new bride - Mrs Mann (Vicky) - and the effervescent Be, also proceeded to pitch their tent in the vicinity.

On completion of setting up my tent, I decided it was time to have a sit-down and enjoy a cold can of Strongbow as a reward - only to find the first thing I had forgotten - a folding camp chair !!

However, my sentence of expletives was cut short by the arrival of Tom Pruen bearing gifts - a nice paper cup full of cold cider - and an invitation to take a seat at the Wasters Arms. Perfect !!

That set the tone for the weekend. Tom started the barbecue up (never knew how talented a cook Tom is until Vapefest) and we sat around chin-wagging about advocacy, events past, and what was to come, gradually being joined by evermore people from nearby (such as Liam, Abi, Rhydian, Be, Vicky etc).

At this point, I caught sight of Meg being escorted from the grounds by three security guards and waved back as she waved at us as she passed our little gathering (though it appears she had too much going on to notice me). I had an inkling of what was probably going on but I am not going to discuss that here as it has been covered in quite a few other blogs, not to mention Meg's own blog (vapemestoopid.co). So go and read the events there if you want to know more.

Anyway, Friday evening was spent sat around the Wasters Arms drinking (and being assailed by all manner of barbecued meat by our host Tom) into the early hours of Saturday morning.

Saturday morning arrived and I found myself wide-awake at the absurd hour of 5am (nothing unusual about that where I am concerned). With the first light just starting to appear over Vapefest (and very few other people awake), I decided to take the opportunity to have a walk around Vapefest to orient myself for the days coming event, making note of where all the vendors and areas I particularly wanted to visit were. My walk revealed just how much larger and better organised Vapefest was this year. There were many more vendor marquees, but also a nice selection of bars and 'eateries' to cater for the refreshments that all attendees would require. It also showed just how popular the event has become because at the top end of the field I was able to view the thousands of myriad tents, mobile homes and caravans parked in the field - and knowing that many more would arrive during the day. By the time I had completed that circuit, I arrived back at my tent to see Tom boiling up the kettle and offering up a cup of tea to start the day.

So the next few hours were spent (once again) sat around the Wasters Arms chatting with folk as they emerged blurry-eyed into the bright sun-light, while we awaited 10am and the official opening of all the vendors (during this time Tom insisted on frying-up an amazing breakfast for several of us who were sat around).

10am duly arrived and off we all went to have a look around. I simply did my usual thing of checking each of the marquees to find which of the vendors were stocking kit that I was genuinely interested in. I wasn't going to fight with the crowds. I much prefer to find out where to find the bits I want and then go back at a later time when the crowds have died back to be able to properly chat and find out more of the item(s) that interest me. Besides, the obsession with 'free-shit' means that the freeloaders are often unruly and aggressive in their attempts to beat the crowds and muscle their way to the front. How fights don't break out in such circumstances amazes me.

As a result, I found myself in the central area where the forum marquees were situated very early on. This also meant that I found the main tent where the raffle tickets could be purchased before the majority of the crowds. So I duly went in and purchased my raffle tickets (no, I didn't win anything either) with no queue whatsoever and then sat down to have a chat with Liam and the rest of the Vapers In Power people in the comfort of their modest marquee and consequently got to meet quite a few other people (such as Roger Ball) who I have known on Twitter for years but never actually met before.

Liam Bryan had asked me to give a talk in the Vapers In Power marquee about Vaping Politics. So,at Midday, I prepared to do that talk. I had agreed with Rhydian the previous evening that it would be good to team up for the talk as we both have similar experience with the 'Wales Situation'. I would speak on behalf of the consumers whilst Rhydian's part would focus more on the vendor viewpoint. Sadly, our talks were done with an audience of just a handful of people. It really is frustrating that for all the thousands of people in attendance at Vapefest, only a handful of people are actually prepared to listen to such talks. After all, if the Politicians get their way then this could turn out to have been the last Vapefest. I hope not, but this really is what is at stake, but with so few people prepared to invest their time in this it really does seem like apathy rules. They will also be the first to complain when vaping is clamped down on, but by that time it will be too late (this is something that Forest's Simon Clark also alluded to in his talk later in the day). A big thank-you to all those who did turn up to listen to what Rhydian and I had to say though.

Job done, it was time to relax and get some food down me before the first raffle prizes were awarded. As the crowds at the vendor marquees had finally died down a bit, it also enabled me to get the gear I had been interested in.

After the first raffle draw, I spotted that Dick Puddlecote had arrived ready to do his talk at the Vapers in Power marquee and, as I hadn't seen Dick since Warsaw, I decided to go over and have a chat. Dick introduced me to Forest's Simon Clark, who surprised me when he immediately worked out who I was and then recounted all that I have been doing in Wales against the proposed eCig ban. I was not aware that Simon even knew I existed let alone all the details about the Wales eCig campaign, so I was quite taken aback. As it turned out, I found myself chatting with Simon Clark at some length on events in Wales and the wider world and it was quite interesting to discover that Forest have made many of the same mistakes we have made in our respective campaigns and it was interesting to hear Simon's view of how those mistakes were made and how they were (or should) be overcome. This is something that Simon would revisit in his later talk in the VIP marquee.

Eventually, Dick and Simon took their places in the VIP Marquee to prepare for their talk. Unfortunately (as Simon alluded to in his blog), the AC/DC tribute band decided to start their sound-check at this time so it became quite a battle to hear Dick and Simon over this. About 20-25 of us huddled together on the grass within the marquee as close as we could get to Dick and Simon so we could hear them. The surreal scene rather reminded me of the 70's Children's TV programme 'Jackanory' (for those old enough to remember) as we all sat around attentively listening.

'Are you ready children ?  Then I'll begin ....'

First off was Dick with his talk concentrating on why vapers and smokers should form closer bonds as we have so much in common and because what happens to smokers almost inevitably happens to vapers too. I thought Dick was rather restrained compared to his normal 'force of nature' personality, but he came over very well and made some very good and pertinent points. Simon Clark's talk also went down rather well, covering many of the points that I had been chatting with him about earlier. He even incorporated some of things I had related to him earlier into his talk. That was followed by an eventful Q+A session in which we learnt many things about the mistakes that Forest have made and how we can avoid making those same mistakes. By the same score, I believe that many of things discussed during the Q+A session also gave Simon Clark quite a few things to consider in his future campaigns. I also agree with Simon that vapers need to work much closer with smokers. We have similar issues and problems to overcome. Furthermore, current smokers are the potential vapers of the future.

With all the talks over, it was time to ‘raid the nearby bar’ for refreshments and get to know all the people that kept arriving that I had never met in person before. There were so many turning up to say hello that it really is a blur to remember everyone who introduced themselves to me so to save face and avoid omitting names I will just say that it was an absolute pleasure to finally meet each and every one of you. You know who you are.

The second raffle draw came and went (again, I didn’t win, as expected) and everybody started to prepare for the evening festivities. For myself, I decided to have a quick last look around the vendor stalls before they closed for the day to see if I could spot anything I had previously missed (I was REALLY tempted by the tiny Hana One mod that one vendor was selling – as was Rob Heyes – but I managed to contain my enthusiasm, and the money in my pocket).

One further unexpected event was bumping into one of my work colleagues being tempted by Gary Dibley’s myriad collection of drip-tips, thought I think I might have upset Garry by taking his potential sale away to chat with me – sorry Garry.

The plan from there was to head back to my tent for a sit down for 30 mins before going over to watch the AC/DC tribute act. However, I sat down at the Wasters Arms (again) with a can of cider, only to find a large number of burgers and ribs (not to mention more of Tom’s cider) being thrust in my direction, that plans to watch the live band soon fell by the wayside. By the time Dave Kitson turned up with his keg of HobGoblin and Marco Van B with his venison burgers, the party at the Wasters Arms was truly underway. So we stayed put (we could clearly hear the AC/DC tribute band anyway and had collectively decided that they were not very good). So Saturday evening was spent in blur of laughter, burgers, beer and fun. The one thing I do remember was how cold the evening air became once the sun went down.

At one point I remember standing up and looking across the campsite after dark to see a sea of BBQ’s ablaze in every conceivable direction.

I finally gave up on Saturday night at around 11.30pm (lightweight that I am) and retreated to my tent for some well-earned sleep. I was up at 5am again on Sunday morning, and as I had never maintained any intention to stay for the Sunday (I had seen everything I wanted to see on Saturday), as soon as it was light enough I quietly packed away my tent and made my way home on virtually empty Sunday morning roads (via a McDonald’s breakfast in Newtown). The roads were so quiet that I made it home in less than 3 hours – even with a stop-off for breakfast.

So, in summary, what did I learn from Vapefest ?

·         Tom Pruen is a very good cook and would do well in the restaurant business if he ever decided to retire from ECITA
·         Tom also seems to have a secret brewery hidden somewhere as he seems to have a neverending supply of beer (cider)
·         Be is completely and utterly bonkers (and burns nicely in the sunshine)
·         Vicky and Katherine like singing – a lot !!
·         Dave Kitson has an enormous appetite for beer
·         Marco Van Basten has serious shiny-itis issues at festivals
·         Abi and Liam are remarkably organised and we Vapers are lucky to have them prepared to represent us politically

·         Abi and Liam like homebrew red wine – a lot !! 

·         Dick Puddlecote can string a sentence together without using expletives (when he wants to) ;-)
·         Rhydian likes Bara Brith – a lot !!
·         Neal Roff is not as quiet (or big) as he likes to make out ;-)
·         Tents DO make rather excellent kites (there is a story there ...)
·         Vapers need to snap out of their apathy and start making noises before it is too late
·         The attendance at VapeFest proves that vaping has arrived in a very big way and it needs to use those numbers to worry the Politicians enough to back off from their ridiculous regulatory plans
·         Vapefest needs to embrace the advocates because it is the advocates who will ensure that there is another Vapefest next year (i.e. it will not be banned)
·         Thieves exist wherever you go (a number of vendors apparently had gear stolen)
·         Simon Clark is a very erudite person and has far more in common with vapers than I think even he previously recognised. I also think he has shifted his opinion on vapers, recognising that the majority of us are also very libertarian in view. I actually got on with Simon very well
·         I don’t handle hot sunshine very well !!

Finally, a massive thankyou to each and every one of you that I met at Vapefest. It is the people that make an event. You all reminded me what a fun (and mad) bunch vapers and the vaping movement really is.

A big shout-out to ‘mein hosts’ of the Wasters Arms – Tom Pruen and Katherine Devlin – for keeping me fed and watered (though I am not sure my diet would thank you) and running the best ‘temporary pub’ I have ever had the good fortune to visit. I trust your hiking holiday in the New Forest is going well.

I look forward to meeting up with each and every one of you again sometime in the future.
Vape on, vape hard .... and all that !!