Monday 8 June 2015

Warsaw Days And Nights

If you follow me on Twitter, you will have an idea of what was happening in Warsaw this past weekend. I'd planned to blog a few short articles as a vehicle for posting pictures but, unfortunately, the app I was using (to save lugging a laptop around like last time) didn't do the job as I'd hoped.

For a sober analysis of the event, I can recommend you read my mate Sarah's rundown, but my contribution will be a pic-heavy post from the perspective of your humble jewel robbing host who met lots of new friends but, unfortunately, was a tad too bolshy for two or three others (who shall remain nameless).

As I mentioned in my previous article, there was a welcome party on the Thursday evening which made it quite clear that the attendance was going to be larger than in 2014  Last year the corresponding evening was held in a back room of a restaurant, this time the attendees took over an entire restaurant and much of the outside too.

What's more, there was quite a buzz when the assembled vapers were joined by Hon Lik, the inventor of the device which has brought such calamity to smug, lazy, smoker-hating dinosaurs in the tobacco control industry. Speaking through an interpreter - both on the bar stairs and in his opening and closing conference remarks - he seemed genuinely thrilled that his creation has been so enthusiastically taken up by people all over the world.

My tip to him if he comes to such an event again, though, is to charge at least £5 for an adoring selfie, because he couldn't walk ten paces without someone wanting to be pictured with him, poor sod. I'm sure the inventor of nicotine patches has experienced the same for years ... oh wait.

You'll notice that it was rather sunny at 8pm when the above photo was taken. In fact, we were bathed in sunshine for the full four days, with the mercury hitting 28 degrees on the Sunday. There was barely a cloud to be seen.

It was in this generous Polish climate that the conference was officially kicked off with a rousing presentation from Derek Yach - former head of tobacco control at the WHO - in the Marriott hotel venue which demands prominence in the Warsaw skyline.

It was particularly pleasing that Yach picked out the incompetence of the BMA's George Rae as an example of false pronouncements from entrenched public health representatives who really haven't a clue what they are talking about.

Other highlights included Clive Bates presenting on "competing visions for the endgame" in which he ran through the weird and wacky notions that tobacco control has proposed to bully smokers into submission, and described why each of them was flawed and simply will not work.

His contention - with which I'd obviously agree - is that without harm reduction and carrying smokers along with a variety of alternatives, all that will happen is that criminals will take over the nicotine market. This is simply because people like nicotine, it's a very decent drug. Trying to make people quit smoking while also objecting to other forms of nicotine is solely the preserve of swivel-eyed prohibitionist cranks who should be stuck on an island somewhere, well away from civilisation, to live out their sad last days whining about the grants they used to get for being, well, swivel-eyed cranks. Not his words, obviously, just my tabloid take on it.

As good as that was - and someone within earshot of me laughed as they asked who could possibly follow it - next up was Dr Attila Danko who most certainly did. A GP from Australia talking about his country's absurd laws on e-cigs, he spent 15 minutes producing passionate theatre you wouldn't expect to see at such an event. Passionate being the operative word.

And, if you have 15 minutes to spare, you might like to watch what he was getting so passionate about.

Note, especially, the undisguised contempt he showed for the likes of McKee, Daube, Chapman and Glantz in their brave ganging up against a part time waitress from Cornwall. Perhaps that was why he received a spontaneous standing ovation from many of the 250 delegates representing (from what I saw/met) Europe, North America, Asia and Australiasia.

Because that was the beauty of this event, it was a delightful soup of vapers, industry, public health advocates and enlightened tobacco controllers from all over the world. Which made for some pretty good nights out, I can tell you.

In establishments like the steak house above where I ate with general election candidate Liam Bryan, Leicester smoking cessation adviser Louise Ross, and some Scandinavians, to the Marriott skybar (view below) where I enjoyed conversations with Australian political researchers, vitriolic vaping veterans from Germany, and Twitter housewives who travelled around the globe to be there, as well as feisty disagreements with North American public health stalwarts and anti-smoking advisers to the tobacco industry (yes, really), amongst others, debate was being held that was constructive and long overdue.

The myopic in the tobacco control industry may like to exclude anyone who disagrees with their decades long creation of a rent-seeking closed shop, but the Global Forum on Nicotine proves that real progress can be made when you bung everyone into the same city - where everything costs buttons - and bat some ideas around. If there is one set of people who should be listened to above all others by those who think tobacco is a bad idea, it is the consumers, and this event does exactly that in spades.

So after a few boozy nights too many- but lots more learned - it was all too soon back to Blighty in my first ever flight in an Embraer 175 (dead sexy plane) providing a great view of the Marriott's imposing stamp on Warsaw (as with all these pics, click to enlarge).

In a seat over the wing, of course, as any self-respecting transport geek would ensure they paid extra for. I'll spare you the snaps of other trains, trams, buses and planes in the Polish capital - of which I took many - ain't I nice?


Dragonmum said...


john gibson said...

Thanks very much for this Dick.

Jay said...

Decent anti smoking and cessation advisers, eh? Does this mean that there's dissention in the ranks and the rotten TC edifice could crumble?

theprog said...

Dissent only with regard to vaping. It's business as usual elsewhere.

The argument re vaping is partially about junk v junk science, with the likes of Clive Bates merely highlighting almost total lack of evidence against e-cigs whilst continuing to promote/support the almost non-existent evidence that smokers harm others. The latter agenda, of course, was deliberately trumped up to persecute smokers.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

This is true. Indeed that was the subject of conversation at my being "a tad too bolshy for two or three". ;)