In case you haven’t noticed, I have not been active for the past two months on social media and I have to give credit to Steve and Jan for taking up the slack whilst I have been recovering from surgery. Alas, my 8 weeks are up and it’s time to get back in the saddle, so here we go! (If you thought that you were rid of me, you were sorely mistaken #sorrynotsorry) 🙂
Where we are – an update
There have been a lot of questions prior to and since the announcement of the Technical Expert Advisory Committee TEAC that we have received. No, AVCA was not included on the committee and no, we have not received a clear answer from the Ministry of Health as to why that is outside of “there were more suitable candidates”. In saying that, Dr. Marewa Glover commented on Facebook that “Regarding make up of Ecig Advisory group…I was nominated & didn’t get on either; appointments were made for range of views & different stakeholders… the group are not looking at HnB, Snus etc – that’s another process – the pre-market approval work.” So in other words, the group *is* tasked with hammering out how legalisation will work, including any limitations on nicotine mg, bottle sizes and safety features, retail requirements, etc. Is it disconcerting that we were not chosen to participate? Yes. Ideally it should’ve been an open forum of dialogue and transparency between all consumers/vendors and government and not the closed door rules of a select committee dictating what the vapers voice should sound like without the actual input of a vaper with no vested interest in the outcome.
As Steve noted in his blog post earlier this week “we can only hope that the selected members of the TEAC realise the task before them is vast, and hope they all realise that they are part of setting a precedent in not only New Zealand, but the rest of the world, especially in Asia Pacific.” Because we, in New Zealand, are doing some groundbreaking work with regards to the legalisation of nicotine e liquid in this part of the world, as well as future proofing the reduction of harm from combustible tobacco products. This is precedent setting stuff…and not just for New Zealanders but also for Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, etc.
I will note that we have been contacted by a number of community members asking who these people on the committee are and if they work *with* us as the choices do seem to be very limited in geographic scope to Auckland It is also disconcerting that a member of the TEAC has felt it necessary to taunt AVCA on twitter and social media publicly, which we have been questioned about as well. These are valid concerns and we have addressed them as best we can and have suggested the concerned parties contact the individuals directly with their specific questions. They may do that, they may not. And whilst this adds to concerns that vaping consumers interests will not be fully acknowledged or represented objectively, we can hope that the Technical Expert Advisory Committee Terms of Reference will provide for that objective representation during the process, which we are looking forward to commencing sooner rather than later.
Hot Topic of the Moment
The hot topic both within the vaping community in New Zealand and abroad is the Heat Not Burn (HnB) technology that is being promoted by tobacco companies as “reduced risk products” that they hope will eventually be their main “bread and butter” instead of combustible tobacco. Whilst there are concerns surrounding the technology, nowhere has any one of the board members stated unequivocally that it is not an option for the toolbox of harm reduction. There are some who would like people to believe that AVCA is anti-tobacco and/or anti-HnB to serve their own agendas. If having and holding concerns about a particular product – be it a particular e liquid, tank, or device makes them “anti” anything, then the problem lies in the perception of the individual(s) making those claims against us.
In this, I am reminded of a blogpost made by Robert Innes in Vaping 360 entitled “Prohibition or Harm Reduction” that covers this topic where he stated “Harm Reductionists do not question Heat Not Burn with a view to stymying or preventing its further development – it is just a genuine issue. At this point, we just do not know enough. There are issues. But there is absolutely nothing to support a view that regulation is needed to ban or limit the product.”
In other words: asking questions does not denote a desire for prohibition or limitation to access. The questions that remain *are* within a New Zealand context in how PMI went about the introduction of their product in our country back in December 2016 as noted in Jan’s blog post so I need not cover that ground again.
Vaping Community Perspectives on alternative nicotine consumption methods:
We did, in our Public Forum, provide the wider NZ community both sides of the HnB controversy when it occurred and we provided the science and commentary as well as stated that we are not anti HnB or even anti RRP. The community is not in full agreement with us on this, however. We can only provide the information and input and people will make their choice. Choice being the operative word here. There are plenty of vapers who despise anything “big tobacco” related; there are vapers who do not understand why someone would choose HnB over vaping and there are vapers who believe, as I do, that extra tools in the toolbox are always a good thing and the technology may well serve those for whom standard NRT and ELVs have not sufficed in their journey towards being smokefree.
AVCA is not alone in our views and priorities – we are a vaper advocacy charity run by non paid volunteers and reliant upon donations from the community for our website hosting fees, postage and sundries. Our mandate is to focus on “educate, inform & advocate” for vapers above all others – including snus, HnB and other nicotine consumption methods outside of combustibles. This also allows us to comment transparently and honestly on anything that affects us as we are not hamstrung by disclosure or confidentiality agreements or concerns about impacts on fiscal interests.
Where do we go from here?
We keep on keeping on…in the communities, providing information, guidance and assistance. None of us on the AVCA board were or are looking for the kudos for the work, this was never about mana, attention or professional acknowledgement. We are still the same group of experienced vapers from diverse backgrounds at the coalface helping smokers and vapers and interested parties alike to understand their options and assist them to make choices as educated consumers. We are a vapers advocacy group, our mandate is “educate, inform and advocate” for vapers.
Our vaping community in New Zealand has grown exponentially in the past two years to well over 50,000+/- vapers. Much of this work is being done one to one through the work of the vapers themselves, as the web of the VIF concept has gone out and spread. That success belongs to the vapers of New Zealand as a whole, not any one particular person or organisation. It would behoove all of us to remember that people who vape or want to know about vaping are the CORE of the work we do – be it as a vendor, public health expert, policy specialist, healthcare worker. These same people are spouses/partners, children, parents, relatives, friends and colleagues. As I have stated before, envision a wheel with its hub (people), spokes (information, equipment and support), and the rim (collaboration, community at large) that pulls it all together.