There is a little ‘parable’ which has done the rounds, but in the context of what is to come, let me repeat the story.

Not so long ago a fire broke out in a tall, tall office block. A workman was up on the roof doing repairs. On hearing the fire alarm, he downed tools and headed for the stairs but as he opened the door to the stairway someone shouted… “Stop!”

He turned to see the janitor.

“Why? What’s wrong?” He asked.

“The stairs are dangerous,” came the reply. “Look how steep they are, it is dark, the power has gone off, you may trip and fall: You might break our legs and lie in agony till the fire takes you, and look, there may be smoke down there. If you go down the stairs you might get trapped and then you will suffocate. You do not want to die from suffocation, it is a long and painful death.”

“So what do you propose?” Asked the workman.

“If you stay here you will be burned, and you do not want to be roasted alive. The stairs are dangerous and you should not go down that way… There is only one other choice… you jump!”

The workman considered this. He thought about his options. To be suffocated; to lie in agony before death, to be burned alive…

He walked to the edge of the tall, tall office block… and jumped.

The janitor smiled, satisfied that the dirty workman had been prevented from using ‘his’ nice, clean stairs.

Normally, the moral of this story is, who is to blame for the workman jumping to his death? Is it his own for being so stupid? What about ‘the janitor,’ who deceived the workman?

What is for certain is that the principles of the story most certainly apply to the current debate on vaping.

Cigarette smoking, as we all know, is dangerous, but how do we escape? Some sources have it that millions will die having been trapped by the habit. Traditional cessation methods have been demonstrated to be ineffective with failure rates of well over 90%.

Then along comes the e cigarette – a stairway to lead the smoker to safety: An escape from the fire. But, ‘the janitor’ tells us: “they may be dangerous; they contain chemicals (of course they do); we do not know enough about them; they will not work; there may be long term effects…”

And to support the above ‘dangers,’ he says, “It is socially unacceptable: I do not like it.”

Bewildered smokers hear this, and increasingly, as the clamour grows, and more and more echo the words of the janitor, they turn, walk to the edge of the tall, tall, office block and jump… They give up the struggle because it is hopeless; They continue to smoke, accepting and, eventually, suffering the consequences.

The ‘silly’ story certainly becomes a reality when the principles of that ‘silly’ story are applied to cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use?

The ‘silly’ story is a reality when, just a few days ago, a prominent member of the House of Lords made the following statement in response for a request for support for the Fatal Motion presented by Lord Callanan in support of vaping. This other Lord, or was he a janitor, stated…


So, Lord ‘Pratt’, (acting janitor in the House of Lords) ignores the evidence.
He shows total disregard for the suffering his attitude will cause by denying both the effectiveness and the relative safety of what is the only viable method for so many of quitting smoking: The stairs through which the smoker may escape.

I am sorry, Lord ‘Pratt,’ considering that, ‘your displeasure must be weighed against the suffering of millions, I consider your comment to be wholly and socially unacceptable.

  • Chris Erickson

    So which is the issue most despicable? Socially unacceptable or social intolerance? I suppose if one considers oneself the centre of the universe it is an quick and easy answer to condemn one’s fellows.

  • Bravo as always, Robert. Harm reduction is not socially acceptable unless it is done in the fashion ~prescribed~….

  • jude

    Excellent blog post, thank you, I think we really need to get rid of a few of these “janitors” and really clean up the government.

  • Andy Clark

    “… I am sure that if you are serious about debating the effect of vaping on society there are other Lords opinion which would be more informed than this particular Lord, without incurring the displeasure of people such as myself who regard this Lords opinion as intellectually unacceptable …”