There is still a lot of debate between scientists and policy makers about the nature, use and safety of nicotine containing products. The media has produced a lot of stories about e-cigarettes, not all of them either accurate, or supported by scientific evidence. Nonetheless these stories have an impact and can influence peoples’ thinking and reactions on issues.

Whilst it would be impossible for our small team to undertake activities in the many countries from where the growing audience for GFN are drawn, this year we have decided to trial a series of three small events in the UK, which focus on the highly topical issue ‘How safe is vaping? Media coverage, dilemmas and solutions in work and social spaces'.

These short (3-hour) ‘dialogues’ will seek to examine the often-contentious issues that attach to vaping, in workplaces, places of entertainment and public spaces. During each a panel of speakers, representing different interests – including consumers - each make short presentations, addressing different issues relating to e-cigarette use. Q&A and discussion involving the audience follow the presentations. You can see more about the dialogues here.

The dialogues are designed to enable interactive discussion and debate - involving public health professionals, academics and scientists, policy makers, consumers, owners and managers of premises and members of the public – on a range of issues surrounding the increasing use of safer nicotine products (including e-cigarettes) as an alternative to smoking.

The proceedings will be filmed and posted on the GFN website, with the aim of providing information to those who might be interested in the subject and to assist those charged with making policy in having a cross-section of views to draw upon.

For this pilot series we will first visit Leicester, a place with a respected stop smoking service that is genuinely e-cig friendly, recognising the role new products can play in assisting people to use nicotine in a safer way. This will be followed by an event in Liverpool, hosted by a leading harm reduction organisation, in a city where there is some hostility to vaping, especially from the public health establishment. Finally we will be in Glasgow, hosted by a leading independent research group, where consumer advocacy has already had some impact on plans to ban vaping in the grounds of hospitals.

Three very different places and each with its own challenges.

The dialogues are free to attend and have been widely promoted both locally and nationally. Registrations to date suggest there is an appetite for them, including from outside of the geographical locations we have chosen.

We hope that we can use the dialogues to stimulate debate and discussion in other areas. We are open to assist, where we can, in enabling similar activities in other places – not restricted to the UK – and hope that the model is one that might be easily adapted for use in these different places.

If you are able to make it along to one of the events this month, we would be delighted to welcome you and hear your views. If not, we hope that the film, which will be available shortly afterwards, will provide you with some food for thought.