The petition being handed over today doesn’t change anything and has no direct bearing on the outcome of Thursday’s court case – it’s a statement of support. POTV supports this petition and the legal action being taken to preserve how we choose to vape at present so we were keen to cover the historic event.
The action in the European court, and the movement to gather supporting signatures, came about because Totally Wicked failed to see why there should be restrictions on e-cigarette sales. Or rather, why those restrictions should be harsher than those on “combustible” cigarettes. The disproportionate and unfair nature of the legislation is what lies at the heart of the court case. The petition delivered to the Department of Health this morning demonstrates that vapers are fully behind Totally Wicked’s action and it is hoped that the authorities see it and take this into consideration.
At the start of the fight they said: “We don’t believe that e-cigarettes are a tobacco product, or for that matter a medicine, so we don’t think they can be effectively regulated as either of these. We have a commitment to product safety and continuous improvement, and are actively working towards better standards and regulations, but we do not see compliance with TPD Article 20 as a positive way of furthering these aims.”
Tuesday opened with a cloudy aspect but the prospect for the hours ahead were brighter. The BBC forecast a dry day with bright spells, but there was no mention of the vape cloud due to descend on the Department of Health at 11 o’clock – just a stone’s throw from Parliament.
POTV’s arrival boosted those there by 50%. The three of us pondered as to when others would arrive. At 10:20 we were up to 9 as the boxed papers turned up with three Totally Wicked representatives and a banner.
Slowly growing numbers generated a gentle bubble of noise muted under the sound of passing London traffic. Individuals looked confused, groups chattered and laughed. But there's a nervousness hanging, we've not seen the like of this before and there's the knowledge that there will be no outcome today bar speeches - our minds hang heavy with the portent of Thursday's court case.
So we chat and look at mods, we discuss journeys and we marvel at the boxes containing 71,095 names. Tens of thousands of people who all believe in vaping as a solution to smoking related deaths.
"We invited some MPs but it is just too hot a potato for them," said a TW spokesperson. Despite there being support for vaping in the house, the party conference season will have impacted on desires to attend. "We expect there will simply be someone at the desk who will take the petitions," she continued.
With quarter of an hour to go the Department of Health minions shuffled out from the entrance to stare disdainfully at the boxes. Sharing words of retreat, they beat a retreat to the sanctity of their refuge before returning to photograph themselves in front of the building sign.
With ten minutes to go we were up to 23; a coach from Wales conveying three members of Vapers in Power was stuck in traffic. But then is a visual presence important today? Some think so. "Some people can't attend for health reasons, distance, work - but then how many vapers live in London," Les the Naked Vaper posited. He'd promised to go naked tonight on VTTV with Vic Mullen if there were 1,000 turning up. Vic will be breathing easy as we're now at 30 attendees. Check out Les and Vic later on tonight, maybe he’ll do it in the nip regardless.
Clive Bates called the throng to order just gone eleven. No cue cards, no prompts; he gave an impassioned speech from the heart – but one tempered with the head of a man who fully appreciates the challenges still lying ahead. A Soundcloud recording of the speech can be found below.
Clive spoke about the injustice and failure of logic at the heart of the Tobacco Products Directive. “It may be several months before we know the outcome,” he warned before pleading for vapers to take any outcome from the court case with dignity. It is important, he said, that vapers do not start lambasting opponents as being Pharma shills but to continue with the steady stream of facts.
And then the papers vanished through the door.
During a storm there are moments of stillness, ships become becalmed. And here, right at the heart of the fight against Article 20 there was a pause as the Department of Health’s doors closed.