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Aberdeenshire: where common sense went missing.

On Monday, October 3, all Aberdeenshire Council sites went smoke-free, making Aberdeenshire one of the first local authorities to implement a policy that encourages smoking by banning e-cigarettes on council grounds. This comment may come as a surprise to both the Council and to a Scottish Government trying to create a ‘Tobacco Free Generation.’

The Council proudly boasts, “Now, councillors, employees, volunteers, contractors, visitors and service users are prohibited from lighting up in any area within or around a premises owned by Aberdeenshire Council, including car parks (not pay and display), cars parked in council car parks and grounds and buildings, to include leased buildings.”

And it gets worse. The Council states, “Individuals are accountable for monitoring implementation of the policy on-site and staff must report anyone not complying. Pocket-size prompt cards are available to help staff approach someone smoking on site in a non-confrontational way.”

Policed by staff? Non-confrontational? I hope the Council are willing to supply the steaks to treat the black eyes.

What are the reasons given for treating vaping in the same way as smoking?

As is normal practice in the use of written communication the most important aspects of the topic come first followed by items of lesser importance. The Aberdeenshire document lists the reasons as follows. “…will help put smoking out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion.” Followed by… “Protecting and promoting the health and wellbeing of employees, service users and those in our communities in relation to smoking and passive smoking.” Followed by… to show that smoking is now not the norm. Then… “to reduce the appeal of smoking, especially to the younger generation, so that it becomes a thing of the past.”

Well, well, well!

Top of the list is removing smoking from sight. I would have thought that protecting people’s health would be the priority, but not in Aberdeenshire it would seem. No, they want to denormalise smoking – to put it more honestly, they want to further stigmatise the smokers. These evil, smelly creatures who are putting us all in danger through their nasty, dirty habit. This denormalisation theme is repeated in the third and fourth items in the list… repetition is used for emphasis – further evidence that health, in reality, is of secondary importance in the Council’s anti-smoking agenda.

The logic behind the Council’s action is that if people do not witness others smoking, if smoking and smokers are denormalised, the temptation for others to start smoking will be lessened and existing smokers will be shamed into giving up – fair enough!

Whoa! Stop the bus! The new regulations include vaping.

To use exactly the same reasoning and logic as used by the Council, if hiding smoking from sight is effective in discouraging smoking, in shaming smokers, then the same is bound to hold true for vaping which is being treated in exactly the same way as smoking. It follows that the results will also be the same. There is a problem with this. Nearly all vapers are former smokers: they use vaping as an alternative to smoking. If vaping is being discouraged the obvious unforeseen consequence is that less smokers will be tempted to try vaping, and as a result, the vaping ban is actually encouraging people to keep smoking.

Ah! I hear you ask. How can something, ‘unforeseen,’ be, ‘obvious?’

This has to do with the heading and sub-heading of this article. When it comes to smoking and vaping, when it comes to regulations and bans, some lawmakers seem to go totally doolally, they seem to lose even that modicum of common sense they, perhaps, originally had, and as a result pass a regulation which, at the same time, on one hand, ostensibly, discourages smoking, and on the other hand, encourages it.

Vaping looks like smoking so it must be smoking

Or to put it simply, they are blinded by their zeal; shackled by their stupidity: Vaping looks like smoking so it must be smoking

Oh how wrong they are! How very, very wrong! VAPING IS NOT SMOKING!

And, is it not ironic that one of the proponents of the regulation is, ‘Chair of the Aberdeenshire Health Inequalities Group.’ Here we have someone concerned with inequalities advocating that the least powerful, the poor, the mentally ill and young people – the very ones who smoke most are punished and have the single most effective route for escape from the smoking habit denied them – VAPING IS NOT SMOKING!

A further irony here is that as Councils north of the Scottish border enact vaping bans, health boards are repealing them. The health boards, though still well behind the game with respect to knowledge about vaping, are not as far behind as local councils who are demonstrating that they are positively Neanderthal. The health boards are doing this because it eventually dawned on them that vaping, if it has any risk at all, presents no more than 5% of the risk of smoked tobacco and absolutely no risk (or discomfort) to bystanders. They realised that VAPING IS NOT SMOKING.

And the Scottish Government themselves, when presenting a ban on smoking with children present in motor vehicles did not include vaping in the legislation. The Scottish Government knew that the vapour produced by the activity was harmless and would not cause discomfort: They knew that children seeing adults vaping would not confuse that with smoking; they knew that VAPING IS NOT SMOKING.

But the cloud being cast by Aberdeenshire Council may have a silver lining, and that is that local councils elsewhere who have enacted vaping bans are now acting on the evidence; have now regained the common sense they misplaced.

An example of this is Bradford City Council debating an earlier decision to ban vaping, but it is slowly, slowly dawning on them that VAPING IS NOT SMOKING.

But I do wonder what the sources are which Aberdeenshire Council have used before reaching their decision to ban vaping? Was it the BMA, a politically motivated dinosaur; was it ASH Scotland still dragging its heels with its head in the sand? (A difficult feat to accomplish, as they are finding out.) Did Aberdeenshire Council just make an assumption regarding vaping and: fail in their duty; fail to do proper research; fail to overcome predispositions based on prejudice; fail to realise that, VAPING IS NOT SMOKING.


Everything expressed in this article is the personal view of the writer.