by Dr Attila Danko
Donna Darvill and I from the NNA AU attended the 2nd Global Forum on Nicotine on the 5th and 6th of June. It was the first time either of us had attended. To say that we had an incredible time would be an understatement. We felt we were in the middle of a historical moment, within a movement that is changing the world, in a city drenched in world history.
I say 5 incredible days because we had the opportunity to arrive early and leave late, and meet with the organisers and other conference goers over all 5 days. We met with the world’s most important leaders, advocates and scientists within the revolutionary movement of tobacco harm reduction, (THR) and not only briefly, but over long dinners and drinks and chats far into the night. We were sleep deprived, but didn’t feel it!
All the networking has given us dozens of new international colleagues, comrades and most importantly, real friends who want to do everything in their power to help us reverse the shameful and devastating situation in Australia where giving up smoking the wrong way has become a crime. Even though there is little support for tobacco harm reduction in Australia, we have many friends internationally that want to help us, among them some quite powerful people.
In the UK it seems they are at a tipping point, where the Government, Public Health and Medical organisations are starting to move towards an enthusiastic embrace of THR It is amazing that the debate there now is about indoor vaping and it is being pushed now by several public health organisations who see that we need to do everything we can to encourage smokers to vape instead. Our debate is whether vaping should be allowed at all! It seems imminent or has already occurred, that pro THR people in Public Health are in the majority and those against vaping are becoming marginalised. No one in Public Health in the UK, not even the most anti-vaping, would even consider anything like the bans that Australia has.
This has occurred, I have no doubt, because of the effective advocacy of ordinary vapers, who have witnessed in themselves the miracle of giving up smoking by having something better, which we have too, and then talking face to face with those who make decisions or advise at the government and public health level. This has come about, not by staying underground, cowering, trying not to “poke the bear” but by effective lobbying in the open, in public, in the media, and particularly by the New Nicotine Alliance UK. Out of all the international advocacy groups we talked to, they have been far and away the most successful. It became obvious that we should take on their model and transplant it into Australia if we are to have any hope of reversing the prohibition of nicotine vaping.
They have, from the start, joined together vapers and public health people. They have prioritised meeting directly with people, face to face, and it has been amazing how many key people in the UK they have changed from being stridently anti-vaping to passionately pro-vaping.
In Australia, we have tried to stay underground, and all it has led to is defeat after defeat, increasing restrictions, and unchallenged lies that get bigger and bigger as the Tobacco Control establishment feel safe to make whatever ridiculous claims they like, and they are adopted as government policy.
The New Nicotine Alliance, Australia is now established with weekly board meetings, and we are having many discussions, face to face, on the phone, and via email, with many people from public health organisations. We are gathering support and leads for further action, and we will be keeping supporters updated regularly. With your help, we must, we can and we will change the unfair and devastating laws that keep people smoking in Australia because we are not freely allowed to have the alternative.
Dr Attila Danko; President, New Nicotine Alliance Australia.
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