In this season of good will and peace to all men and women, I thought that it would be remiss of us to not take the time out to reflect and share the events as they unfolded on the day that our Chief Scientific Officer, Lucy Robins, was invited to speak on Sky News about battery safety.
As members of the IBVTA, whose head office staff were in the midst of an office move, we received a call from Garry Dibley who asked if we could put anyone forward. The timing of this seemed to be perfect as the IBVTA had finished their guide to battery safety only this week and was circulating it for sign off so we agreed to the interview.
Battery safety is something that not only affects our industry, but wider society. In September of this year I was shocked at my own ignorance to learn of the threat that ‘button’ batteries pose to small children if swallowed. Battery safety is something that has always been on the agenda for us when selecting products, especially now that we are manufacturing our own range of hardware however the rise of rechargeable, replaceable 18650 batteries over more recent years to power the bigger devices being marketed brought this issue to the fore.
The interview was in response to a newly released video by the Fire service, showing a battery discharging in a man’s pocket after it was carried loose with coins. So in preparation we scoured the internet for media coverage. In order to gauge the tone of reporting we checked the big hitters (or usual suspects) first. The Daily Mail’s report was succinct and factual. No undue hyperbole. Not a reference to the morality of vaping or how vaping is a gateway to smoking or whether adults have the right to choose sweet flavoured e-liquid. They pretty much recanted the core message. Carry batteries safely and be aware of the dangers if not.
Next over to the Sky News web site. Again, considered, not opinionated and on point with the West Yorkshire Fire Service mandate.
It was quickly emerging that the piece had rightly been put out by the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (@WYFRS) to alert people to the dangers that a loose battery can pose when in a pocket or handbag next to keys, coins or any other metal objects.
Fantastic, we thought. A huge and welcomed opportunity to have a place on one of the largest platforms, from where we can promote the proper use of batteries. Protect your batteries, protect yourself.
In preparation, we spoke to the Sky News producers, they asked what we wanted to say. We wanted to distinguish between the two types of Electronic Cigarette devices available. Those with contained power sources and an example of an 18650 and emphasize the fact that customers should always purchase from a reputable source and always use a carry case with separate cells. The Sky News production team had been enthusing that same morning about the benefits of vaping and shared with us the impact that it was having in their social circles.
All ducks aligned, clock ticking we had a 1600 Skype test and a 1630 live time. Lucy accepted the opportunity to speak on behalf of not only our company but also the industry. A super informed person who has shared the negotiation table with varying members of enforcement and regulation bodies throughout the TPD implementation. I feel it moot at this point to put on record our disappointment with nearly all of the TPD nuance and detail. However, and critically, as a reputable business, that wishes to continue to trade legally and as founding members of a trade organisation that cares passionately, we have done our utmost to help the MHRA and Dept. of Health to roll out the law in the most commonsensical way possible, one that supports the vaping community and given the fact that TPD is LAW, we faced no option but to get on with it.
Lucy, hair brushed and heart rate rising but not racing, steeled herself. One last check of the notes and we even threw in the potential curve ball nasties that may come up. “Your product appeals to children”; “You don’t know what’s in your products”; “It’s a gateway to smoking”. All questions and debates that as operators within this industry we have mulled over and encountered myriad times. Skype technical issues added to the tension and we had set up lights in the board room so that we could be visually, audibly and literally clear about promoting safety.
- “Hi is that Lucy?” came the disembodied voice.
- “Hello. Yes”
- “Lucy Robins? One ‘b’?
- “And you are the Chief Scientific Officer for Liberty Flights?”
- “OK Lucy we will be going live in three minutes”
- “OK” [Breathe in 2-3-4, hold 2-3-4, breathe out 2-3-4, hold 2-3-4 – a Quora tip I had picked up and shared with Lucy so that she could relax.]
One final prep from, off stage right. You are the expert. This is not a duplicitous trap to ensnare you. We are aligning with the Fire Service to get across a key message. You have got this.
Queue Ms Burley.
- “Joining us now is Lucy Robins, Chief Scientific Officer at Liberty Flights, so are they safe?”
- “Good afternoon Kay. First of all I would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to…..[fades from my memory]
Sometimes the most effective and scary parts of a gruesome movie are those when we don’t see the carnage as it unfolds. Perhaps we see a looming threatening shadow, or a splatter of blood.
The sensationalist diatribe that followed gave Lucy no opportunity to express concern at the, albeit rare and yet incredibly serious incidents occurring and how we might help to raise awareness by prevention. Nor to perhaps widen the discussion to other power sources; I can remember a drill and phone batteries reference being ridden over roughshod at least once. Not a glimmer of Lucy being able to riposte Kay’s suggestion that we should BAN VAPING ALL TOGETHER! Throwing millions of vapers back into a life of tobacco combustion. Not really much chance of anything that got close to a grown up discussion, in alignment with the Sky News production teams opinions (unless that was part of this Machiavellian plot). The gravest missed opportunity by Sky was the bypassed chance to help promote the sole purpose of why we were invited. To reiterate the message and help those in the Fire Services who give up their Christmas lunch and family time, all year round, to save lives. Gone was the moment for us to inform vapers who may not know that they need to carry batteries properly. This was now an attack on e-cigarettes and not a discussion on battery safety.
That said, our heroine equipped herself with superb aplomb. Skype connection dead. Laptop closed. Lucy had her WTF face on. I pointed to her directly. Dead eyed her. “YOU! Did an amazing job”. For the briefest of moments, I feared for her well-being. This was after all Lucy’s first major media salvo. The only way is up. I needn’t have had been concerned.
Met first of all by rapturous applause from colleagues at head office. Hugs, cheers and the Rocky theme in her own head were soon followed by the phones ringing with endorsements for Lucy. The first two of which were not even customers nor vapers. A reflection of how as a collective, as media readers and as free thinking folk we want to be informed. We are intelligent. Educated and capable. Give us the true facts, let us decide.
Twittersphere was a maelstrom of support for Lucy, including from Miss UK (an intelligent insightful and positive role model for women it would seem, debunking the oft over used stereotypical tags). Surprise at the interview technique, and further debate. The old adage of today’s news, tomorrows chip paper is truly just that old. The spike and fall of the twitter commentary lasted for around 15 minutes. Sign o’ the times. Fast food, fast media, nutritionally suspect.
To, hopefully complete the circle and close the loop I would like to draw your attention to the video that the West Yorkshire Fire Service have released. Yes, Electronic Cigarettes are mentioned, alongside hover boards and other devices.
Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I look forward to a reduced risk 2017.