Dear Health Minister
A post by marlowejames
RE: How many people have contacted their MP’s?
My last letter to my MP got passed to Anna Soubry who replied but never answered my specific questions, but provided an original albeit another cut and paste reply. My MP asked if I had further questions or concerns to inform him and he would pass them onto the Health Minister. After a great deal of thought I’m asking a very simple question. Here’s my letter:
Dear Health Minister,
“We have now identified that the information the previous coalition Government relied on to formulate policy and legislation regarding e-cigarettes was flawed and inaccurate and subsequently this Labour Government will act quickly to change legislation that has caused potential users of e-cigarettes to continue smoking harmful tobacco cigarettes. The Labour Government will also seek to implement measures to ensure that all future health policy is not based on ideology or the vested interests of the Pharmaceutical Industry and their NRT products, but only reliant on accurate and unbiased scientific data. It was wrong for the MHRA consultation in 2010 to ignore 96% of all respondents, as these ex smokers were the very stakeholders who were most affected, most qualified and best placed to understand the impact of the proposed e-cigarette legislation.”
The above fictional Department of Health Government statement is a sample of what is extremely probable, should the Government’s position to medically regulate-cigarettes continue. When the Government’s position on e-cigs is flawed from both a legal perspective and a scientific perspective than it is only a matter of time before any policy whose foundations are so fragile fall down under the weight of both public opinion, media insight and legal challenges.
I can fully understand how any Government minister is reliant on the information and advice that they receive from their respective departments and especially in the case of policy that relies on scientific or technical information and it is wholly correct that any Government is seen to be united and in agreement with the departments and regulatory bodies that they inadvertently place their political trust in. A bad decision made by a politician is always seized upon and attacked. The fact however that the politician was relying on information and advice from their trusted departments or regulatory bodies is nevertheless ignored by the media and public.
Since the matter of medically regulating e-cigarettes was first suggested by the MHRA in 2010 (you will notice that this policy is not a Government policy, but a MHRA inspired policy) the Government quite rightly has had to use the information from both the MHRA and CHM as justification for the Government’s policy.
Wasn’t it even Columbus who had to seek funding from another countries monarch in order to explore and find America, as the Portugal’s monarch’s scientific advisers were adamant that the world was flat? History is sadly littered with examples of politicians and Governments relying on bad advice to make decisions.
Every letter I have written to my MP has been replied with cut and paste excerpts from MHRA documents justifying the Government’s position. Any specific questions that I have asked get ignored and remain unanswered. All documents or information links I supply as evidence of my concerns get ignored or at best are answered by the same cut and paste MHRA documents. These aren’t isolated concerns, but the concerns of a whole community of ex smokers, now users of e-cigarettes – the very same e-cigarette users who have been ignored in the consultations despite representing 96% of all the consultation responses.
Why is it that the Department of Health is so keen to use NHS patient surveys to learn, improve and change bad policy and procedures, yet in a consultation exercise with the health aim of understanding how e-cigarettes could be used to reduce smoking tobacco it blatantly ignored the actual experiences and knowledge of experienced users of these new products?
Why is it that the MHRA were given the brief to decide how e-cigarettes should be regulated? They can only regulate medicines and considering that all existing legal precedents have concurred that e-cigarettes are not medicines including the US Court of Appeal and the EU’s own JURI legal committee than this initial faux pas means that when ever anyone questions Government Policy we are always automatically referred to the MHRA documents that justify this policy citing that e-cigarettes do not meet the appropriate standards of safety, quality and efficacy of medicines. Has no one in Government questioned the fact that a jar of coffee or pack of wine gums would also not meet the MHRA’s appropriate standards of quality, safety and efficacy for the simple reason that none of them are medicines or meant to be medicines in the first place. This is why the MHRA have stated that noexisting e-cigarette on the market would meet their exacting standards, as none of them are meant to be medicines in the first place.
Unless the Government is prepared to accept that the MHRA’s recommendations may be flawed, incorrect or even out of date, than any further democratic dialogue is futile. To date all the evidence that myself and others have received from our elected representatives is that the MHRA have reached a decision and the Government accepts it – period. They won’t question the MHRA’s findings or even investigate further the crucial validity of “are e-cigarettes legally in fact medicines”.
It was highly embarrassing to watch your predecessor Anna Soubry at the EU Scrutiny Committee hearing obviously having relied on her department advice and having to take the personal wrath from the committee members, when the advice given to her has been flawed from the beginning. So the point of my question is to simply understand is it the Government making policy or the MHRA?
As a voter, a citizen of the United Kingdom and of the belief that Government and politicians are in place to serve the electorate I would like to ask just one simple question. I do not want another Department of Health/MHRA civil servant cut and paste reply, but as straight forward answer to a very simple question.
“Is the Government willing to consider, acknowledge or accept any reputable scientific or statistical evidence that the MHRA’s findings and conclusions regarding e-cigarettes may be flawed and incorrect”
I look forward to receiving your replay.