Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Magazine Feature

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to be contacted by Vapouround magazine and asked if I would write an article for them as part of their 'Diary Of A Vaper' series. This was based on information that I have related in previous blogs on this site.

You can read the actual magazine article on pages 84-85 here however, be warned that the feature also contains some pretty horrific pictures of yours truly !!

Due to space restrictions, a lot of what I wrote did not make it into the published article. So I thought I would publish the FULL UNEDITED text of what I wrote in here as my latest blog entry. 

At this time of the year, it is often the case that articles appear in various sources (such as in James Dunworth's excellent blog, featuring a plethora of familiar names and faces) detailing how the 'Vaping Experts' predict events over the next 12 months in the world of Vaping will unfold. As I am NOT one of those 'Vaping Experts', I have never been asked how I see the future of Vaping, but it did form part of what I wrote for Vapouround magazine.

So, for those that are interested, I present the full unedited text of the article I wrote for Vapouround. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Diary Of A Vaper

1. When did you start vaping and what was your greatest motivation to start vaping?

I bought and started using my first eCigarette on 6th June 2011 (I always remember the date as it also happens to be the anniversary of D-Day from WWII). I honestly can’t remember what type of eCigarette it was (though it is perfectly possible it still lives in a long forgotten drawer somewhere in my home office), but most were pretty rudimentary in those days when compared to what we have now. A few months previous to that I had found myself in hospital due to a Myocardial Infarction (basically, two of the main arteries feeding into my heart had become blocked, starving my heart of blood and oxygen). In hospital I had an operation to clear the blockages and was told in no uncertain terms that my problems had been caused by my previous 30 years smoking habit, which I should quit. I managed to stay off the cigarettes for a couple of weeks following the operation, but gradually found myself having the odd cigarette here and there, and soon found myself fully back in the habit.

Around the same time, I started to see articles about this new thing called eCigarettes on the internet. Curious about them, and because I wanted to be free of the smoking habit that had put me in hospital, I started researching them and decided to give them a go. On 6th June 2011, I had my first eCigarette in my hands. I smoked my last 5 tobacco cigarettes on that morning, then switched to using the eCigarette. I have not had (or wanted) a tobacco cigarette since.

In the ensuing 5 years, I have watched the Vaping phenomenon taking off. The technology has moved on in leaps and bounds and I have tried to keep up with it. The numbers of visible vapers has skyrocketed. When I first started Vaping, people would come up to me asking what on earth it was. They didn’t understand that the device could be used in smoke-free places because it didn’t produce smoke. I lost count of the amount of times I had to explain to people what it was or how it worked (and why it is NOT smoking). Many smokers used to dismiss it saying it will never catch on. It was certainly exceedingly rare to encounter another Vaper. Now, I see them everywhere and being used by people from all walks of life (quite a few of whom I can claim to have persuaded to make the switch).

As to my health problems, I still have some issues around that, but not caused by vaping. I have regular checkups at both my local GP Surgery and at the Cardiac Centre in the local hospital. My current health issue is a leaking valve near to my heart and I do have to undergo an operation to either replace or repair it (they have not decided which yet). However, both my GP and the Cardiac Consultant are aware that I vape and both are fully supportive as they recognise the considerably reduced risk of vaping when compared to smoking. During my last checkup, I was wired up and on a treadmill. The Nurse in charge of the test commented that my lung capacity showed that I was clearly a non-smoker. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are well within acceptable limits. So I am seeing, and feeling, clear benefits to my health.

2.  What do you enjoy most about vaping?

Quite apart from the obvious health benefits that I have already discussed, I actually rather enjoy the whole vaping experience far more than I ever enjoyed cigarettes. For one, there are the enormous varieties of flavours to enjoy. I’ve tried quite a few flavours over the years, some were very good, some I found absolutely disgusting. But I have to admit that I invariably come back to the fruit flavours (though there are even some fruit flavours I cannot abide – water melon ...bleh !!). The two flavours I vape the most are, ironically, quite similar in that I like Blackcurrant or Blueberry. I tend to make my own ejuices because I can mix them to my own personal preference. It is actually rare for me to purchase pre-made juices. But that is the beauty of vaping. No two vapers have the same taste. What I find enjoyable, another person may hate, and vice-versa. It is the sheer variety of flavours that, I feel, has helped to make Vaping such a successful phenomena. 

The other thing I enjoy about Vaping is the community. Because of the actions of certain members of the public health and political communities, there is very much a sense of ‘us and them’ and it has engendered a camaraderie among vapers that is not seen in many other communities. Whenever I get together with a group of Vapers, whether at the pub or a Vape event, you witness that great sense of community and friendship as we all have a common ground and sense of enjoyment.

3. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about vaping?

The misconceptions of vaping are very much the product of the Public Health zealots. These are the people with the ‘quit or die’ attitude to anything they disapprove of. To them, the thought that anyone might be enjoying something they disapprove of is anathema. They simply want to see a bland joyless world where everybody conforms to their ideals. Because they have the ears of the Politicians and the mass media, they can spew out this disinformation in a scattergun approach knowing that it will be picked up and run with. The mass media in particular love to see scare stories as it generates ‘click-bait’ and this hysteria sticks and resonates with the general public. These Public Health zealots know that and it simply encourages them to spread more and more disinformation and lies. We all know who the main culprits are.

The problem for these zealots is the concept of social media. Whereas before they could spread lies and disinformation without any come back, now the public can research and fight back. This is what really infuriates the zealots. Vapers can and do fight back – often directly. The zealots simply cannot abide the fact that the vaping community has the temerity to pass information around and fight back.

Most vapers will be aware of how close Welsh Labour got to banning eCigarettes from enclosed Public Spaces earlier this year. But it was defeated due to heavy intervention and fighting back by the more vocal of us Vapers in Wales. In conjunction with the (now defunct) Save eCigs campaign, a group of us spent two years getting ourselves in front of as many Welsh politicians as possible. We spent countless hours travelling around the country to meet with those politicians, armed with all the science to back up our assertions that vaping should be left alone, that it was not something to be feared, but embraced. And it paid off – big time.

The reason that the ecigarette supporting politicians in the Welsh Assembly were so well informed was due to all the science and research that we had been feeding to them. It was extremely uplifting the see our political supporters standing up in the Assembly and fighting against the proposed ban using the science, facts and figures that we had provided to them. Yes, it was a close run thing and we did get an element of luck to win that battle. But win it we did. I like to think that the gusto and stubbornness we showed, the backs-to-the-wall no surrender attitude we displayed, was a major factor why Welsh Labour have shied away from attempting the reintroduce the vaping ban in the new Public Health Wales Bill that is about to start its way through the Assembly.

Fortunately, elsewhere in the UK, the authorities have been a bit more sensible. With both Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians coming out in support of eCigarettes, the immediate danger to vaping has now been averted. It is just a shame that it came about too late to stop the TPD (more on that later).

But the battle is not just about the UK. Over the past 2 years I have been privileged to be one of the (currently) 7 Trustees of the New Nicotine Alliance. The NNA is currently embarked on a number of campaigns, including a constant dialogue with both the Department of Health and Public Health England. Through those connections the NNA has been able to have significant input into various stop smoking services (the contributions of fellow NNA Trustees - Lorien Jollye and Sarah Jakes - in the recent UKNCSCT guidance on eCigarettes is a perfect example of this). The NNA has provided input into many campaigns and consultations all around the world – from Australia and New Zealand, through various countries in Europe and all the way over to the other side of the Atlantic. The NNA performs a whole host of activities to promote the benefits of eCigarettes, many of which the general public may be unaware of. It is through the NNA that vaping stands its best chance of being freed from the shackles of onerous regulation.

4. Where do you see the vaping industry in the future?

This is an interesting question and, in my opinion, very much depends on what happens post-Brexit here in the UK. 

If left to evolve naturally, vaping can go a long way in the next 5 years. You only have to look at the innovations and great strides forward that have already been achieved over the last 5 years. Unfortunately, the attitude of the Governments (and Public Health) of a great many countries is going to greatly restrict vaping. Already the FDA Regulations in the USA has clamped down very hard on the American Vape industry. We are starting to see a number of vendors closing down over there. Further, some States are also attempting to introduce punitive taxes on vaping.

In the EU, the TPD has taken hold. Some EU countries have yet to implement it, some are implementing it to the letter of the law, whilst others are going far beyond that (e.g. in Belgium, Austria, Germany and Poland). In Asia, many countries have already introduced a blanket ban on vaping altogether. Australia has always had the most draconian restrictions on vaping, with New Zealand not very far behind.

However, in my view there are still some rays of light to be found. Post-Brexit, there are rumours coming out of the Government of a whole raft of EU Legislation they would like to get rid of. Amazingly, the TPD has been touted as one of those pieces of legislation. If the UK dumps the TPD, then the UK could become the poster child for vaping across the world. The UK is probably the most vaper-friendly country in the world right now. Recent news has shown that smoking rates in the UK have plummeted over the past 3 years and ecigarettes have been given a huge amount of credit for this happening. If the TPD were to be repealed in the UK, then those smoking rates will have every chance of tumbling at the same (or even faster) rate over the next three years. That would give other countries still under the yoke of the TPD the chance to free vaping, using the UK as their example. The USA could do likewise.

The removal of the TPD from UK Law could conceivably place the UK at the centre of innovation in vaping over the next 5 years, quite possibly seeing the number of vape companies increasing or even relocating here. There is much at stake and I shall be watching (and campaigning) strongly for the UK Government to repeal the TPD.

In New Zealand, there is currently a consultation going through on the lifting of restrictions to vaping. Even in Australia there are moves afoot to try and legalise the sale of nicotine-containing ecigarettes.

All is not lost yet. Far from it. There is much, much more to come in the story of vaping

5. What mod do you use? And what’s your current and/or favourite e-liquid juice?

I have loads of mods and tanks and constantly change between them all the time. The ones I am currently using are the Wismec Reuleaux RX200 with an Uwell Crown on top, A Wismec Reuleaux RX2/3 with a Smok TFV8 on the top, and a Sigelei 75w with a Kanger Subtank Mega on top.

6. Any advice to potential vapers or smokers out there who are struggling to quit smoking?

Quitting smoking does not have be an onerous or difficult decision any more. The easiest and best way to quit smoking is by switching to eCigarettes. They taste better, are more enjoyable, and can be customised to your taste. All you need to do is find the right nic strength and flavour for you. Everyone is different. Go to a vape store and they will assist you to find the right setup. The more atuned your setup to your own personal tastes, the greater your chances of switching completely to vaping.

If you have tried vaping before and found it was not right for you, try again. The technology has changed and advanced a lot in recent years. Vaping is becoming more and more pleasurable with each new innovation and advance, and you will save yourself a lot of money in comparison to smoking.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

What Is The Point Of Electing A Government/Parliament ?

On 23rd June 2016, the country was asked whether it wanted to Remain in the EU, or whether it wanted to Leave the EU. The eventual result was that Leave won by 52% - 48%. Since then, we have had protests by Remain supporters (many of whom later admitted that they had not even bothered to vote in the Referendum) and constant carping  by bitter Remainer MP’s (especially, but not limited to, Lib-Dem MP’s) upset that the masses did not heed their scaremongering.

We have had all manner of excuses from the Remainers, from complaining that the masses did not know what they were voting for, to trying to coerce Government by claiming that how we left the EU was not on the Referendum Ballot. We even have some of them claiming that there should be a second Referendum to decide on the terms of our Brexit.

The fact remains that when the Ballot papers went out, a simple question was asked. That question was whether we wanted to Leave or Remain in the EU. The Government (which was run by Cameron at the time), even put it in black and white that ‘The Government will implement whatever you decide’.

Since the Country voted to Leave, Cameron decided to pack his bags and leave the whole business to somebody else to clear up. This resulted in a long-winded Conservative Leadership election which eventually led to Theresa May becoming Prime Minister. In the meantime, we had the likes of Nicola Sturgeon making threats to hold another Scottish Referendum because Scotland voted to Remain. We have had the likes of Tim Farron (who is MP for a constituency that voted to Leave) trying to stir up as much trouble as he can (which fortunately is extremely limited as he only has 9 MP’s in his party), and we have watched the Labour Party tearing itself to pieces as they all bitch and squabble amongst each other without being able to come up with a coherent policy on what they should do OR where they stand on the matter.

UKIP also began dissolving into a civil war as Nigel Farage decided to step down, leaving them to run a leadership contest which resulted in Diane James being voted as new Leader, only for her to then change her mind and hand the reins back to Farage while they had another go at electing a new Leader – which they finally managed to do when Paul Nuttall got the nod a few weeks ago. But, despite their internal civil war (and a few actual punch-ups), we all know where UKIP stands on Brexit as their raison d’etre has always been to get the UK out of the EU.

Unfortunately, another consequence of all the delay in triggering Article 50 has been that various individuals and groups have had more than enough time to organise themselves such that we now have the ridiculous situation that everything is being decided in the Law Courts.

It started when Gina Miller decided to launch litigation to say that the Government did not have the right to trigger Article 50 without the consent of Parliament. This resulted in the High Court agreeing with her and sparking another war of words over who actually runs the country – Government or High Court Judges.

The Government decided to appeal the High Court decision and as a result, last week saw the Supreme Court convene in front of no less than ELEVEN Judges to decide who has the power to do what. However, by the time it arrived at the Supreme Court,  it wasn’t just Gina Miller’s lawyers that wanted their say. There were legal representatives sent by the Welsh Government, the Scottish Government, the Northern Irish Government and then a whole slew of other ‘interested parties’. It ended up as four whole days of dreary (and often unintelligible) dialogue by a whole slew of Barristers pushing argument and counter argument.

Now, over the weekend, has emerged details of yet another group of people who are planning to take legal action to ‘shape’ the terms of Brexit. The appellants this time are Peter Wilding, chairman of pressure group British Influence,  and Adrian Yalland, a Conservative lobbyist who voted Leave.

Given that we know we already have to wait until the New Year before we know the result of the Supreme Court hearing, we now have the prospect of another long drawn out legal case. It is going to be a long drawn out affair because if the Appellants actually win in the High Court, then one can assured that the Government will then contest that as well and the whole thing will end up in the Supreme Court again. 

And who is to say that in the meantime somebody else will not try and raise yet another Legal case against the Government, further delaying the whole process, or that another appeal would be launched in the event that the Government actually win the current case in the Supreme Court ?

In my mind, the whole thing is now causing a Constitutional Crisis in the UK because if the Supreme Court rules against the Government again, and this new Legal case is also brought forward, then we have to start asking what on earth Parliament (or Government) is for ?

The way that UK Democracy works is that every 5 years (currently), the present Government is dissolved and the question is put to the country as to whom it wants to run the country for the next 5 years. As a result, millions of people cast their vote to have their say (of course, millions also abstain as is their right). It is a tried and trusted method of discovering who ‘The People’ want running the Country. It has evolved over several hundred years, with the rules about who can and cannot vote evolving with the process during that time. The system is certainly not perfect, but it is what it is and it is what we have.

But, whether you are a Leaver or a Remainer, the people bringing these court actions need to be very careful with what they are doing. Because the way things are going, we could end up with the untenable position that every decision the Government make is being constantly challenged in a Court of Law. You don’t need me to tell you that such a scenario will inevitably end in complete and utter anarchy, and, in all probability, significant civil unrest.

It all ends with the simple question:

Just who runs the United Kingdom. Is it Parliament or the Law Courts ?

A Government is elected to Govern. Parliament is elected to hold the Government to account. If every decision the Government makes can be challenged in the Law Courts, then who is actually running the country ?

So, if the Government loses in the Supreme Court, then I have to ask the question that is the title of this blog:

Just what is the point of electing a Parliament ?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A Billion Lives – What Are Public Health Officials Afraid Of ?

Around the UK, people have been applying to host a screening of the award winning documentary ‘A Billion Lives’. To date, two screenings are confirmed – Glasgow and Swansea. Others have not yet met their minimum quota of reservations to guarantee a viewing. 

Much has been made of the apathy of Vapers around the country in not supporting the screening of this film, but Vapers are not, and should not, be the focus for this film.

The people who SHOULD be coming to see this film in droves are the Public Health officials, blinded by ideology, and the Politicians who form laws and regulations based on those ideologies. But these are the very people who will not see the film unless Vapers around the country rally to the cause and reserve tickets for the different screenings being planned all around the UK.

In Swansea, the numbers have been achieved because local Vendors have got behind the rallying call in association with Vapers In Power. I believe a similar scenario was achieved in Glasgow through the efforts of the NNA’s Andy Morrison.

The problem is the old ‘you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink’ scenario. I am aware that many Scottish Public Health officials and MSP’s have been invited to the Glasgow screening that takes place in 26th October, but I am led to believe that very few have accepted the offer.

Likewise, at Swansea screening (Swansea Odeon, 23rd November, 6pm) the plan is to invite Welsh Public Health officials, AMs, MPs, councillors and even representatives of charities such as Tenovus, Cancer Research. An invitation is even been extended to the man charged with Health of the Welsh nation - Welsh Chief Medical Officer – Dr Frank Atherton – all with the offer of free tickets.

The question has to be asked, if such people truly believe in the health and well-being of the Welsh public, then why wouldn’t they attend?

So, to re-emphasise the title of this post, What Are Public Health Officials Afraid  Of ?

IMHO, any refusal by such prominent figures to attend or acknowledge the existence of the film puts them in the very same category as many of the figures and organisations featured in the film. It demonstrate that the very people sucking from the public teat claiming to be protecting Health are more motivated by money and care not a jot for the health of the Welsh public. It will PROVE that this subject has never been about health.

In the USA, A Billion Lives had a special screening at the Senate in front of many of America’s most prominent politicians.

So let’s see what our so-called ‘Guardians Of Welsh Public Health’ do ?

What will our Politicians do - especially the misinformed ones like Mark Drakeford ?

Will they come and see the truth ? Or will they simply run away and hide, scared that the real truth is finally coming out, and on the big screen ?

So what is ‘A Billion Lives’ ?

Created by Aaron Biebert it examines the history of smoking and the corruption that has led to the current situation in which healthier alternatives are banned or heavily restricted in most countries and the cigarette trade is continually protected.The title of the film is derived from the claim (from the World Health Organisation) this century a billion people are projected to die from smoking.

The film goes on outline the history of the tobacco industry, including discussing the various ways in which the tobacco companies tried to hide the effects of tobacco and tobacco products on their users. Throughout the film, you hear from people such as David Goerlitz (the Winston Man), Derek Yach (former Head of Tobacco Control for WHO and the architect of the FCTC), Clive Bates (former CEO of ASH) and many more of the world’s leading Public Health professionals.

It then describes the attempts the tobacco industry has made to stop e-cigarettes from encroaching on the money-making abilities of the large multinational corporations involved. It examines many of the reasons many people are critical toward vaping, before showing how money is integral to the tobacco industry's survival. Tackling issues such as the involvement of pharmaceutical corporations and even governments in dealings with tobacco companies, the documentary reaches out to find out why there is such a negative bias toward vaping. Culminating in an extensive breakdown of how much money is at stake in the hands of tobacco and pharmaceutical industries, as well as Government,  A Billion Lives covers a wide range of topics related to smoking.

A Billion Lives has already won several awards across the globe, including:

Best International Documentary – Jozi Film Awards, South Africa

Best Director – Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Australia

Supreme Jury Prize – Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Australia

Silver REMI – Worldfest Houston, USA

Best International Feature – DocEdge Film Festival, New Zealand

 Swansea Odeon - 23rd November 2016 - 6PM