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Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum

The great and good of tobacco met in Bologna to discuss vaping, among other things. Clive Bates attended.

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Liking the tobacco industry is an almost impossible task but they share a similar view of vaping in that it reduces harm and faces a huge threat from ill-conceived legislation. This and other related topics were discussed at the Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum (GTFN) in Bologna.

David O’Reilly, the retiring chairman of the GTFN and director for British American Tobacco, stated, “the advent of reduced-risk nicotine products is changing the nature of our industry.” He welcomed the fact that for the first time, “the desires of our consumers and those of the tobacco control industry intersect for the first time.”

Acknowledging that the evidence, although more is required, is becoming clear: “in the case of e-cigarettes, they could significantly reduce the harm to people that would have otherwise continued to smoke.”

The event featured speakers from various backgrounds including those representing public health concerns. Numbering amongst them was Clive Bates, strident advocate for ecigs. It will be a move that raised eyebrows in some quarters and will no doubt be raised up against him in future by anti-vaping campaigners.

Patrick Basham, a director for the Democracy Institute, hosted the event. He likened O’Reilly’s efforts to that of a mythological figure from Ancient Greece who spent their time pushing boulders up hills only to see them roll down again. The analogy was made in reference to (what he described as) an age of unreason.

Basham railed against his perception that there are those who are bent on restricting the advance of technology and choice offered by vaping. But then should he be surprised given Big Tobacco’s history? On one hand it offers huge wealth and experience to push ecigs into mainstream acceptability – but the baggage they bring to the table is the cause of all the opposition we encounter; opposition that is all-too understandable. This is, after all, an industry that kills 6,000,000 of its customers every year.

The forum didn’t address numbers like that head on, they referred to the traditional tobacco product as presenting “a well established health risk”. A well established health risk to consumers who, “in the end, die anyway,” according to Doctor Kgosi Letlape. He was referring to the human condition rather than smokers in particular, but the comment is poignant given the event.

Clive Bates asked the audience: “Would you accept half the number of smokers if it meant twice the number of nicotine users?” It is possible to consider a scenario where the attendees would be happy with quadruple the number of smokers again. Harm reduction for the tobacco industry is a means to an end in order to shore up profit although if it leads to a positive outcome for current smokers then there can be little complaints.

Little that is from people other than the likes of Simon Chapman. Chapman has already questioned Bates’ tenuous links to tobacco as a means to discredit his opinions about vaping – but Clive has big enough shoulders to deal with such insignificant comments as demonstrated recently.

So, that tobacco companies continue to see eliquid and electronic devices as a viable area for exploitation ought to provide some small crumbs of comfort to vapers not seeking to quit in 2016. Quite how the electronic cigarette market will look over the next couple of years is anything but definite; Big T involvement could prove to be pivotal.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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