An interview with a Dutch vaping advocate

How long have you been vaping?

About 3 years. I did try a 510 cigalike 5 years ago, but I didn’t know about cleaning or proper usage, so that experiment failed. I’ve always been interested in experimenting various methods of getting nicotine, including shisha, pipe, snus etc. I like snus..

What gear are you currently using?

Mostly regulated, my favorites are a ZNA50 clone, and a 30W Hana clone.
Both equipped with drippers, I love the simplicity of a dripper compared to a tank system. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I switched to premade coils in the coming years, the technology is improving at a great pace, I will manage, even if my gear is technically illegal.

Your favourite e liquids?

Pluid by Mad Murdock
El Camino by Goodlife
I also recently switched to high VG as it´s better on my throat.

How did you get into advocacy?

I got involved in an EU (in Brussels) demonstration 2 or 3 years ago. I was involved in a good Dutch forum, a friend of mine Marcel was the one who really started off our group, we then developed a good website. With all that information now online the media interest began to grow, it started with a small amount of work and it grew and grew. I was single at the time and it was a good way to meet people, it all sounds like the beginning of a rock and roll band but we take this stuff a little more seriously.

What is the current state of affairs in your country / The Netherlands?

AMVB (The Dutch Health authority) enacted the current temporary law and by doing so was then required to invite and consult all stakeholders. We met with civil servants but not the relevant ministers. We hope to have more meetings in the future, but it is a long, hard and slow slog to get in front of these people. Sadly we are short of good lobbyists, lobbyists are good for access, but are very expensive.

It should be said that vaping is regarded as disruptive technology and government ministries are always resistant to change

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that studies continue to use bad science and do not consult real vapers before attempting to measure formaldehyde levels etc. For example a Dutch research institute used 200 different liquids in a vaping machine coupled with a CE-4 firing at 4.5 volts. A heavy vape user was arbitrarily defined as someone who enjoyed 500 puffs every day with only 30 seconds between each puff. Based on these scientific tests it has been decided that vaping is bad for you. Do you know anyone who vapes like this? No… neither do I, in fact nobody does.

For a complete summary of the law and the effects it has had on Dutch vapers please have a look at the following link:

And the current state of affairs at the European level?

TPD is now a fact, we simply must assume it will hold or withstand against the lawsuits that have been brought against it. (The Totally Wicked lawsuit sounds like a great idea, but I would not like to bet my future vaping on it!)

TPD implementation is our challenge, every nation should fight it at every level. Slow, thoughtful and considered implementation is better than rushed diktat blindly targeting the entire European Union.

Out of the three largest countries in Europe vapers or the general public in both the UK and France enjoy what I would call good or proper public influence and access to formulating laws that directly affect them. Germany on the other hand is different, surprisingly vapers or the general public enjoy very little influence in processes that will set the implementation standards, unfortunately many other European countries will just blindly copy them.

Differences between each USA and EU approaches to advocacy?

It seems to me that in the USA people like Stefan Didak and many others are using the latest technology in a very effective manner, we have also noticed that many small businesses and vapers have gotten together to fight for their rights.

Here in the EU more specifically Holland we have found that the end user or vaper associations can talk to important people that industry organisations simply cannot reach. We also have to deal with a language barrier across the EU, something that the USA does not suffer.

How much revenue will big pharma lose if vaping becomes the tobacco cessation method of choice?

Sadly I do not know the exact figure but it is safe to say Billions of Euros.

Is it only big pharma and big tobacco paying lobbyists and “financing political campaigns”?

That is an interesting question, firstly we have one sector comprised of big tobacco selling closed cig a like systems who see the TPD as their safety net for declining tobacco sales.

They are countered by a small group of vape manufacturers who try to help put a stop to the current draconian legislation being enacted.

Then we observe the well intentioned prohibitionists. The anti smoking brigade who are nothing less than zealots, aiming to finish with all smoking within 10 years. Everything is a black and white issue with them and they simply cannot differentiate between combusted tobacco and vaping.

What can everybody do to help politicians legislate with a properly informed view?

As we discussed before it is difficult to get access to ministers and politicians in the Netherlands, as our system is not district based, we enjoy a complete style of national voting. We have been accused of being industry shills even though we are simply a public advocacy group. We are still trying and still hopeful about getting to the politicians etc, we get no response to our letters even though they know they are being read.

I implore everyone to disseminate the facts, inform the ignorant at every opportunity via letter, email and social media, remember to always use good sources like Clive Bates, Dr Farsalinos, Stefan Didak they are always keeping us informed using facebook posts, twitter etc.

What the W.H.O?

Please click on the following link, it speaks far more eloquently than I ever could:

Where can we find the definitive list of advocacy groups.

Sorry, That’s impossible. In my experience of human nature, there are very few doers and way too many watchers, but I know that there is a small group of dedicated people working on the wikivapia project, I hope that they will succeed in engaging all the European groups.
Please click on the following link:

Why don’t B&M’s or websites simply insist you sign the petitions before you purchase?

Some of them do point their customers to petitions or other advocacy sites, THANKS A LOT! But many of them are just trying to keep their business alive on the short term, for them petitions are simply too distracting for the customer. Times are tough for many vendors and also some are interested in only the money. Defending a high risk business should be part of any business model but many have yet to realise this fact.

What should we do as a sub reddit (www.reddit/r/ecr_eu) of 2,000 + members?

Keep your members informed. Every informed vaper is a potential activist, and every reply to the media or politics is an act of activism. Many online communities suffer from useless infighting and internal discussions, on reddit it’s easy to downvote the non constructive trolls, and simply focus on what needs to be done.

The future… one big European advocacy group or petty squabbling and death by a thousand cuts?

We are one big EU advocacy community, mostly connected through twitter and facebook. I regard many EU activists as my friends, even if we have slightly different priorities in our approach. At the GFN 2014 conference I met many great activists and only one weirdo.

In Europe the usual national organisational structure is:
• a user association without industry involvement
• one vendor association

On the User side we’re united under EVUN for EU wide responses and during the EU TPD negotiations we regularly mailed letters to EU institutions signed by all.

As a user association without any financial motive different doors can be opened. is in a constructive dialogue with Dutch anti-smoking, and harm-reduction organisations, and parts of government. Those doors are mostly closed for vendors.

My ideal structure would be:
• the existing structure + 1 joint users & vendors org per country.
• 1 vendors org for the EU, 1 EU joint users + vendors org

Totally wicked can move fast in suing the EU because they only have to account to themselves, large and consensus based action is often too slow.

/u/stefandidak would like to see more joint action on EU vendors and users, but I do think he underestimates how much hate there is for a profit-motive, and how many doors would close. In the US small business owners are saints and voters, In the EU they get framed as big-money.

Finally is there anything else that you would like to add to this debate/ discussion/ debacle – delete where applicable.

We have attended the court sessions and we are cautiously optimistic. The lawyers from the Esigbond made a well prepared impression and had very good arguments. The most surprising argument being that the TPD states that it should not be implemented before May 2016.

If that is the case and the judge agrees, then at least they have bought some time. The State’s attorney made a less good impression, she was clearly unsure of her arguments. When asked by the judge how the shops should interpret certain rules, she answered that the NVWA (authority on Food and Consumer goods) would make policy ‘on the go’.

The Esigbond asked about the 2ml limitation of Clearomizers, whether this rule was about brute or net volume. Again this clearly surprised the State, they obviously had not considered the difference between brute or net volume.

The judge’s ruling is expected on the 31st of March, so we need to wait one more week. We had some fun during the session when we saw that the representative from the RIVM was frantically reading through OUR factsheet 🙂

After the session Marcel and I had a quite heated debate with Mr Martena, one of the policy-makers of the State. I really can’t understand why policymakers can’t embrace the e cig for what it is: a wonderful invention, a much safer alternative to smoking. We look forward to talking with him again soon.

On Monday the 23rd, the long awaited report of the RIVM was published about the health risks of the e cig. On the whole, the report was quite positive. However, they tested the e liquid contents and the vapour-contents. They found traces of metals such as copper, tin, lead in some e liquids (from cig a likes) and in the vapour.

Again we have an issue with their testing method. The RIVM had clearly studied e cigs, tried to avoid dry hits, etc. But they did use a smoking robot, although they tried to adapt it to measure ecig-vapour. They used a voltage of 4.5 with a 2.2 ohm CE4 Clearomizer. We suspect that they also forgot to make sure the wicks were fully saturated at each session. The conclusion however, was that e cigs ARE a safer alternative to smoking. We published our reaction later that day. The RIVM will publish their report on risks of second-hand vapour for bystanders later this year, presumably.

We have a meeting with RIVM on Monday 30th of March and we hope they will listen to us. Unfortunately, the evening before the RIVM published their report, Secretary of Health M. van Rijn came out with the news that he plans to implement a minimum age for e cigs, “now that it has become known that they are more damaging to health than previously assumed”.

The NVWA responded to the report that, since RIVM found adverse health effects at a nicotine level of 16 mg/ml, the proposed maximum level in the temporary law is too high and should be lower than 16 mg/ml.

Ignorance is the biggest problem only further education can solve it.

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