Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Vaping in Bradford. Why the Council voted down a more liberal approach.
Last week Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors voted down a motion I submitted to Bradford Council calling for a 'vaping friendly city'. This motion set out how Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians had described vaping as "at least 95%" safer than smoking and argued that we should be more positive about e-cigarettes as an effective aid to quitting smoking. The proposed resolution was to conduct a review of current policies with a view to being more open to vaping in public places.
Now the dust has settled I thought I'd share with you the main reasons given by those voting down the motion (other than the real reason for Labour's opposition - this was a Tory motion and we don't vote for Tory motions). This is from memory but I think captures the essence of the debate - supporters of vaping will be very familiar with the arguments.
1. "But 5% of something very harmful is still harmful"
2. "People don't like the smell of vaping - and what about asthmatics?"
3. "There isn't enough evidence that vaping isn't harmful."
4. "We've got used to people not smoking in offices, this is a step backwards."
5. "The flavours smell horrible and are targeted a children."
6. "Here's an opinion piece from the British Medical Journal that says vaping doesn't help people quit
7. "There's no evidence that liberalising rules on vaping encourages people to switch"
We then got three very specific arguments.
8. "It would confuse people because our neighbouring authorities have different policies."
9. "We don't have to lead, to fly the flag, all the time, we don't have to do this."
10. "Officers in public health* are too busy to conduct a review."
*Bradford spends best part of a million quid on smoking cessation.
11. "We should be talking about more important things for the District than vaping."
It was a pretty depressing episode. I've learnt that, even with a pretty modest motion asking that officers look at our approach to vaping, the controlling Labour group will vote stuff down - "Not-Invented-Here Syndrome" I call it and this combines with a knee-jerk tribalism ("must be a bad idea if the Tories are proposing it") to make it hard to make progress.
Where we go from here I'm not sure. Putting another motion to Council won't work and I'd already tried approaching public health and the council's HR department directly (they chose not to reply). We've made - and will continue to make - the case through the press. Maybe Bradford's vapers are happy to muddle through with a mish-mash of different attitudes towards what they do. And perhaps public health (and Labour councillors) are happy to conflate smoking and vaping because it suits their disdain for what seems like a decidedly working-class habit.
In the end any change will only come through the 20,000 or so Bradford vapers putting pressure on the Council to change. Right now I've gone as far as I can take it.