Monday 10 April 2017

When The Music Stops, RSPH Look The Fool

On Friday, for some unfathomable reason, the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) decided it was a doozy of an idea to do the dirty on vapers who had put much store in their support of e-cigs. I wrote about it here.

As a brief reminder, here was the 'scandal'.
Vaping shops selling to non-smokers
Almost nine in 10 e-cigarette shops in the UK are selling vaping products to non-smokers against the industry's code of conduct, an investigation reveals.
As you may remember, it wasn't "the industry's code of conduct" but that of the Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) which makes up just a small proportion of the industry as a whole.

However, the RSPH made great play of this code of conduct and wanted to see it adhered to by every e-cigarette company and vendor nationwide. Specifically, they wanted e-cig businesses to never sell to non-smokers under any circumstances.
Chief executive of the RSPH, Shirley Cramer, said e-cigarettes should be treated as "evidence-based quitting aids, rather than lifestyle products", and therefore should be aimed at smokers. 
She said: "We applaud the Independent British Vape Trade Association code of conduct, which is in line with this principle. 
"However, as our investigation shows, the majority of vape shops in the UK are not adhering to these important standards.
By not selling to non-smokers, they meant, which is the only 'revelation' their undercover operation really discovered.

Of course, there are very many reasons why it would be perfectly reasonable to sell a customer an e-cig if they are an adult and request to - as the RSPH's dogged investigator did - which were well-articulated by Clive Bates here. Not just for the benefits to public health it could represent but also that it is a matter of choice for adult consumers in a free society to be able to purchase legal products if they so desire. None of which seemed to be considered by the RSPH before they embarked on such a hare-brained agitprop exercise.

Their CEO Shirley Cramer left us with a parting wish.
"We are keen to support the sector to strengthen their codes of best practice, and for individual retailers to sign up and ultimately adhere to them."
Unfortunately, that is now nothing but a pipe dream as the IBVTA have today wisely amended their code of conduct in the opposite direction.
With hindsight, the use of the word “sell” was not appropriate when “market” would have been.  The Board has therefore unanimously agreed to amend point three of the IBVTA code of conduct so that it now reads: 
“Never knowingly market to anyone who is not a current or former smoker, or a current vaper.”
Their guidance is now significantly changed so that the RSPH's 'scoop' simply doesn't hold water. Vape shops do not 'market' to non-smokers and never have done, quite rightly, but there are plenty of reasons why they might 'sell' to a non-smoker if they insist they wish to buy ... as the RSPH researcher did quite clearly.

So when the music has stopped after this pathetic non-story, all RSPH are left with as a policy demand is that bit about urging vendors to advise potential buyers that e-cigs are cessation devices, which they are not allowed to do by law.

Great to see common sense prevail from IBVTA, but it leaves RSPH with egg on their face - which is nice - except that the headlines will stay on Google for quite some time and convince a large proportion of the public that vape shops are nefarious businesses only out to hook customers into a lifetime of addiction, which is utter rot. The real news wasn't that shops are breaking a code (they didn't sign up to), but that the code was wrong anyway, but I wouldn't hold my breath until the RSPH go to the media and correct the misconception.

RSPH have shown stunning lack of awareness about vaping with their naive and ill-thought through exposé and should go back to vapers and ask some further questions to educate themselves, because it's quite clear they are woefully ill-educated on the subject matter and should zip it until they are. 

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