Monday, 19 June 2017

Reflections On Warsaw: Pissing On Chips Edition

I thought some here may be interested in a few thoughts on my few days away in Warsaw for the fourth Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) ... which I nearly didn't make at all thanks to a car fire on the motorway on the Wednesday afternoon.

I can faithfully report that watching kids playing football on the carriageway amongst stationary traffic when you have a plane to catch in less than an hour is a deeply depressing experience. As it happens the blockage - a car which had quite literally melted by the time it had been extinguished and dragged to the hard shoulder - was cleared just in time for me to catch the flight with minutes to spare. My gallant cabbie floored it for the rest of the way and, after jumping out at the terminal while he was still travelling (I doubt he got out of second gear), managed to sprint to the gate in time for priority boarding.

As for the conference itself, I detected an atmosphere which was subtlely different this year. In the past there has always seemed to be an undercurrent of mistrust, with industry and NGOs distancing themselves from each other and barbed comments being flung from those who were on panels being afforded the use of a microphone, but if it was there this year I certainly didn't notice it. Everyone appeared far more relaxed as if this type of conference - where both sides of the debate are welcomed without prejudice - is now becoming more normal.

David O'Reilly of BAT was represented on one of the panels and there was no theatrical gayness of a staged walk-out as in previous GFNs, while some 'public health' types even turned up to the welcome night booze up!

It was, I believe, this more enlightened and mature approach which Louise Ross may have been referring to when she offered up what was, for me, the best quote of the conference.


That's not to say there wasn't the occasional frisson of controversy. Clive Bates fired the odd searching question to panellists while the idea that cigarettes should be "phased out" advanced by one 'public health' contributor was met with a brilliantly-delivered put-down from VTTV's David Dorn. Plus, my accommodation-sharer, Fergus Mason, managed to ask the question he had travelled all the way from Germany for.


It was, predictably, dodged with Arnott referring to the whole of the TPD rather than the regulations on e-cigs - which Fergus quite obviously meant - but he tried to correct this later in the lobby by clarifying it and asking the same question again. Arnott's response was to angrily say "why don't you leave me alone?!?" and swiftly vacate the area.

However, credit where it's due, at one point during her presentation, Arnott spoke in almost derogatory terms about Simple Simon Chapman by stating that "even he" had got things wrong about vaping. This was compounded by a plenary session (everyone in the same room) which followed breaking out in laughter when US advocate Cynthia Cabrera placed the name Stanton Glantz and "scientist" in the same sentence ... it was quite revealing to look around the room and see some tobacco control types chuckling along with the rest.

Along with Irish fraud Mountain McKee, it's starting to look like - as scientific evidence piles up against dangerous prohibition of safer products - tobacco control can see the charlatans in their midst over tobacco harm reduction and kinda wish they would shut the fuck up and stop being such dicks.

On a personal level, I spoke with a few on the dark side myself and was decently-received. Had an immensely entertaining discussion with an e-cig researcher from Kent who surprisingly regaled us with tales of her rag and bone man Dad, and found myself next to Linda Bauld at one point, so asked about her recent blocking of me on Twitter when I thought we had an agreement that I like her stance on e-cigs but reserve the right to pull her up on other subjects. To be precise, it went "Oi! You blocked me!", at which she laughed and replied she'd had a bad day that day and promised to unblock, which has now happened, before having a conversation about how my business is going (very well, by the way, thanks for asking).

Oh, that reminds me. Business. Prior to the conference, there was a new departure in the ISonTech day (Thursday) focussing on innovations in harm reduction from industry. Introduced by Hon Lik who brought a replica of his original guy-in-garden-shed 'invention' with him (see below), it was largely occupied by the tobacco industry and I heard a few bemoaning the fact that e-cig businesses hadn't taken the chance to be similarly involved. I hadn't originally planned to turn up to it but Fergus wanted to go along so we did and I'm glad of it as it was very interesting.

Hon Lik's e-cig
PMI exhibited their four platforms of risk reduced products, sadly with prototype platform 2 which I want to try being hermetically-sealed in a perspex box, while BAT educated attendees about their heat not burn product Glo and JTI promoted their expansion of Ploomtech.

My personal favourite on display though was the tobacco free snus which Swedish Match quite literally brought to the table.


Named Zyn, I thought it was a great product and so was extremely happy to find in the pub later that full pods of the Citrus, Mint and Cinnamon flavours had accidentally fallen into my jacket pocket. How lucky was that for the flight home, eh?

The ISonTech part of GFN, I thought, was a brave thing for the conference organisers to arrange, but a worthwhile one. They could have been given a hard time for daring to embrace industry innovation, but hopefully that will not have happened seeing as I witnessed a few well-known 'public health' NGOs there as interested as the rest of us.

As for the rest of the trip, I met fellow jewel robbing commenter Roberto S and also occasional visitor Brian Carter from the US who said he thought I was really funny. Nice to know I'm not regarded as some kind of lifestyle issue Gardener's Weekly or something, I suppose.

All this and I still got to catch the cricket, see Old Town with some immense friends, and enjoy some beer-fuelled late nights before touching down at Heathrow, being whisked home (fortunately without incident) and crashing asleep post-nosebag like a morphine-addled Tom cat after having its knackers removed.

Next stop is Forest's Smoke on the Water boat trip tomorrow, a different crowd entirely where - to borrow a phrase - I also hope no chips will be pissed on. 



2 comments:

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