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Dr Attila Danko and seven delegates (the Magnificent Seven!) of the NNA (AU) hosted a morning tea for politicians in Senator Macdonald’s office at Parliament House on October 14th. Senator Ian Douglas Macdonald is an Australian politician and has been a Liberal member of the Australian Senate since July 1990, representing Queensland. Following the retirement of John Faulkner on 6 February 2015, he is currently “Father of the Australian Senate”.

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We had a lot of interest and attendance from 5 Parliamentarians, and 20 offices sent their senior advisors. We had a very good response and spent an hour and a half in Parliament. Dr Danko had a folio of detailed evidence and scientific papers covering every single aspect and any question that might be raised, however they were much more interested in the personal stories of us, who couldn't quit smoking any other way. Evert Rauwendaal, a non vaper, (the tall young guy in the photo) who works at Quit, also came along with us, he is part of Alex Wodak's Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and represents a powerful ally; they, including Alex, will be working increasingly closely with us to advance the cause. 

Away from the mental gymnastics of tobacco control opposition, the whole issue sells itself with its obviousness. We had some reasonable questions, like "what about nicotine", but they were easily answered. We covered the "children" argument, and some of the usual stuff, but mostly they were interested in the testimonies of all of us long term smokers who managed to give up by vaping when nothing else worked, and the health benefits we have experienced by doing so. 

The vibe we got from virtually all the politicians and advisors that we spoke to was a surprising open mindedness. Most seemed to agree that the law was not helpful for people trying to quit, and although the process of changing it is fairly straight forward, Senator Macdonald warned it would likely be a slow parliamentary process. Obviously we will also have to deal with powerful lobby groups who may try to fight against any changes in the poisons schedule meant to make nicotine more accessible to vaping consumers. I think we successfully conveyed the fact that ejuice at the strengths available in the UK is a relatively benign substance. That seemed to be understood and accepted by all who were there, and we noted in a public Hansard document that Senator Macdonald raised questions on this soon after our meeting in a parliamentary discussion involving a representative of the TGA.

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Overall this was a very successful meeting and we feel that all who attended left with a better understanding of the issues we are advocating for, and a more empathic understanding of how policy affects real people, the vapers and smokers of Australia, the people the NNA are fighting for.

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Earlier in that same week we had dinner with three eminent international advocates for vaping and other reduced harm options. We met Professor Gerry Stimson one of the founding board members of the NNA UK , Paddy Costall who is the director of the Global Nicotine Forum held in Warsaw every year, and Associate Professor Marewa Glover who is Chair of End Smoking NZ. These three wonderful people gave us many tips and much encouragement for our efforts to advocate for Australian vapers and users of reduced harm alternatives to smoking. We forged some valuable relationships and connections that night, and it was an honour to meet and chat with these very experienced and highly regarded people. Gerry Stimson kindly shouted us all the cost of our meal on the condition we donate the amount back to the NNA Au, which we happily did.

Here they are asking how Australia is ever going to regulate this lot!

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Then on Saturday 17th October we attended a National Vape meet at the Babushka Lounge in Ballarat. This was a hugely enjoyable event with about 60 people present. A local vape shop, came along with a good variety of stock for sale and the few smokers who happened to be at the venue on the day all left with vape gear! Hundreds of dollars worth of donated prizes were raffled on the day and the funds from these were donated to the NNA Au. Dr Danko made a rousing speech about our efforts to make vaping legally available for all vapers and smokers in Australia. Much fun and frivolity was had by all and the event went on well into the night!

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Lastly, one of the submissions made to government by the NNA was to the South Australian Senate Committee on Ecigarettes. As a result of that submission Dr Danko has been invited to represent the NNA AU as a witness to the committee. He will take the stand this Monday, 2nd November 2015.