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It’s a lonely life opposing e-cigarettes

Labour MEP Linda McAvan is in charge of attempts to ban Europe’s 10 million vapers from using devices which aren’t medicinally approved.

Not surprisingly she’s not the most popular Member of the European Parliament. But just how isolated she is is was shown in a live Facebook webcast she carried out today. Supposedly she was answering concerns about her proposals to ban e-cigs. Hundreds of vapers had questions for her. But she chose to answer only few questions on e-cigs, including one from a woman called Laura Guiot. And it's a rather soft question - the kind you might expect to see in the UK house of commons by a member of the same party:

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 15.04.24

Throughout the chat, participants were furnished with snaps of Linda at work. The one below shows Linda hard at work answering her constituents' questions, with some support from an unnamed individual.

Linda Mcavan Laura Guilot

And this picture is of that European citizen whose question Linda chose to answer. Could it be the same person?

**Picture removed by request**

We think so [Please see update below - it seems were mistaken, an EU Spokesman claims they are not the same individual]. And in case there's any doubt in your mind, Ms Guiot's Linkedin profile states that she is a consultant in web editing at the European Parliament, working in the Brussels area.

There’s enough distrust between Europe’s vapers and Linda McAvan. The hundreds of MEPs who rejected her proposals for medicinal regulation are better at listening. They don’t pretend to listen. They don’t just answer questions they have written themselves.

A picture tells ten thousand words.

[UPDATE]

We've been informed that the woman pictured sat next to Linda McAvan is in fact her assistant and not Ms Guiot.

Nevertheless, out of 16 questions that Linda McAvan answered, 4 were from internal staff to the EU parliament. This is despite hundreds of questions being raised by concerned EU citizens.

Granted, not all these questions could be answered in the time frame available, but the preference for answering easy, supportive questions and ignoring the tougher ones posed is clear and makes a mockery of the whole enterprise.

[UPDATE 2]

We've received a letter from Jaume DUCH GUILLOT, Spokesperson of the European Parliament.

The text is as follows.

"I am writing to you concerning the chat organised yesterday on the European Parliament’s Facebook page with MEP Linda McAvan, who is the Parliament rapporteur for new EU rules concerning tobacco products, and the information you subsequently published about it on your site.
First of all, let me stress that Ms McAvan did not know and had no way of knowing who asked the questions which were put to her, and she was certainly not aware that any questions were put by members of European Parliament staff (after the first institutional question). She therefore selected the questions to answer solely on the basis of their content. It is therefore totally incorrect to suggest that she “just answered questions she has written herself". Linda's assistant did not at any time post a question during the debate and you have wrongly confused her identity with that of someone who did post a question who is not a member of Ms McAvan's staff.
I therefore ask you to clarify this matter on your website"

So, fair enough - the buck is passed to Linda. She chose to answer nothing but soft questions, at least a quarter of which were asked by EU parliament employees, and to ignore the real issues raised by the many vapers participating.

[Update 3]

I've been informed by a reliable source that Chatroll, the service used to facilitate the livechat does indeed provide details about the participants. In other words, Linda would have had access to who was asking the questions, and this directly contradicts the statement by the spokesman quoted above. It is, of course, possible that this functionality was purposely switched off - but that seems unlikely, doesn't it? Why hide from an MEP the identity of the questioners?

[Update 4]

An additional comment from Mr Duch-Guillot has just come in:

We do not use Chatroll, we use an application which was developed in house and uses python, PubNub, django and amazon web services. The MEP in the chat sees the facebook name and facebook profile of the person asking a question only and cannot know (unless it's a personal acquaintance) if she or he works in the European parliament or somewhere affiliated. While Ms McAvan is not to be blamed for anything possibly untoward, we do recognize that this rather innocent way of working may pose problems. We are therefore considering taking measures to exclude staff from the Parliament or affiliated bodies for future chats, bearing in mind, of course, that a foolproof guarantee could never be given.

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