More than 100 of the vaping industry’s most successful and influential figures came together for the UK Vaping Industry Association’s Summer Forum event.
After last year’s Forum was cancelled because of the pandemic this was the UKVIA’s first “live” event in nearly two years.
Leading lights from politics, science, economics, medicine and academia also attended to take part in three engrossing panel debates addressing issues such as the World Health Organisation’s attacks on vaping, vaping’s growing role in healthcare and how to address ongoing misperceptions about e-cigarettes.
The event, which took place in London’s imposing Millbank Tower, was also a chance for the UKVIA members to reflect on a difficult time during the pandemic, but also to appreciate the great advances the sector has made in achieving widespread acceptance as the very best and most effective method to help smokers to quit.
Chairing the Summer Forum was the UKVIA’s Director General, John Dunne. He said: “After almost two years of lockdowns it was fantastic for so many of our UKVIA colleagues to finally get together in person and discuss the most pressing issues facing vaping today.
“Not only that, but we were honoured to have some truly esteemed representatives from the scientific, academic political and health sectors who all gave great insights into the latest thinking around vaping’s current and potential impact on society.”
The first panel debate focused on the WHO’s long-standing anti-vaping stance.
Christopher Snowdon, Head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, made the point that when people hear anything with “World Health Organisation” attached they immediately take it seriously – even when scientific evidence contradicts what it says.
Reflecting on the WHO’s repeated claims that smoking and vaping are as damaging to health as each other Mark Pawsey MP, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, said: “Increasingly vaping and smoking are getting conflated. There are too many places where it says that vaping and smoking are as bad as each other and we know they are very different activities.
“Leaving the EU we can form our own policy on this and continue the reduction in smoking that is helping so many people.”
Addressing misperceptions that e-cigarettes were causing a legion of “never smokers” to take it up Andrej Kuttruf, UKVIA board member and founder and chief executive of Evapo, argued that the data showed prevalence of ‘never smokers’ who vape is less than 1%.
The second panel debate looked at the growing influence of vaping in healthcare settings, following the announcement this year that the NHS would trial giving e-cigarettes to smokers in some A&E departments, and recent draft NICE guidance stating that vaping should be given equal prominence in smoking cessation services alongside other nicotine replacement therapies.
Mark Oates, director of We Vape which represents the vaping consumer community, told the panel that, when it comes to encouraging people to switch from smoking to vaping, the influence of organisations such as the NHS would give the sector a real boost.
Revealing that a recent survey of health workers, including smoking cessation staff, showed that almost half wrongly believed that nicotine – rather than combustion – caused cancer, Dr Sudhanshu Patwardhan from the Centre for Health Research and Education, underlined that there is still too much misinformation which needs addressing.
The final panel debate of the day took the issue of vaping’s image and how that could be improved.
One of the guest speakers, former Booker Group MD Mark Aylwin, said a good start would be for vaping products in supermarkets and convenience stores to be properly separated from tobacco kiosks to try to break the association with them.
Jo Mahoney, senior Trading Standards officer, pointed out that one of vaping’s biggest and most enduring image problems was the public perception that children and young people were too easily able to access vaping products and that organisations like the UKVIA had a vital role to play in demonstrating what the wider industry was doing to prevent youth access.
Once the panel sessions had concluded John Dunne said: “It was brilliant to once again be able to get into a room with so many forward thinking people to look at what has been achieved in the last 12 months despite the pandemic and, more importantly, steel our resolve for the coming year and do all we can collaboratively to promote our industry and get even more smokers to switch to vaping.”