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“We hope people aren’t that cheap” say A Billion Lives team, as UK ticket sales disappoint

British vaping advocates have joined the team behind award-winning documentary A Billion Lives in expressing their disappointment at weak ticket sales. The film is being promoted in Britain through Demand Film; over a dozen screenings were originally scheduled, but they’ll only go ahead if enough tickets are sold – and so far only one, in Glasgow, has reached the target. Others have already run up against the sales deadline and been cancelled, including Manchester. Astonishingly, London – which probably contains more vapers than any other city on Earth – hasn’t generated enough interest to get a single showing confirmed.

An aggressive minority have been complaining about having to pay to see the film, demanding that it’s released free on YouTube so they can save the cost of a cinema ticket. This has attracted widespread condemnation from advocates, who’ve pointed out that the complainers are effectively demanding the production team work for nothing.

Some vape shops have begun buying multiple tickets in an attempt to confirm viewings in their area, but overall the response from vendors is almost as disappointing as from consumers – remarkable, considering how popular vaping is in the UK. Some advocates believe the country’s relatively liberal laws have persuaded vapers they don’t need to make an effort; more cynical ones say that many just aren’t interested unless there’s free stuff on offer.

[Editor’s note: An active debate has taken place on social medias when this article got released. The author therefore clarified a particular point on Twitter :]

Medical journal backs down after vaping expert challenges claims

Chest, one of the leading medical journals on chest diseases, was forced into a humiliating retraction on Wednesday, after cardiologist Konstantinos Farsalinos challenged false claims in a recent article. The journal had claimed to have found a case of bronchiolitis obliterans (“popcorn lung”) in a 60-year-old vaper, and speculated that diacetyl-containing liquids were a possible cause.

Investigation by Farsalinos soon found that the patient had in fact been diagnosed with a completely different, and much less serious, condition called acute hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is basically an allergic reaction caused by inhaling a substance the victim is hypersensitive to. The journal changed the title and posted a clarification, but the article continues to state that diacetyl is a suspect. In fact diacetyl has never been linked to this condition, and while it’s a possible cause there’s no evidence to support this. As Farsalinos pointed out, there’s no evidence that vaping was actually linked to the condition at all.

UK Trading Standards raids five vape shops

The BBC has reported that Trading Standards officers on Merseyside have seized illegal e-liquids from five local vape shops. The seizures were not connected to the EU’s much-criticised Tobacco Products Directive, but related to offences under British law. A council spokesman explained that the liquid bottles were contained in packaging designed to resemble food – McDonalds apple pie, ice cream cones and tubs, and cakes – which is illegal under the 1989 Food Imitations Safety Regulation. According to the spokesman some of the bottles also lacked the required safety labelling.

The reaction from vapers was generally in favour of the seizures; the use of this kind of branding has attracted increasing criticism in recent months. As well as being illegal it’s also a gift to those who claim the industry is marketing to children.

California tax debate gets heated

Rhetoric is being dialled up in the debate over California’s controversial Proposition 56 tax hike, which state residents will vote on next month. The main goal of Prop 56 is to increase tax on cigarettes from 87 cents to $2.87 per pack, but the tax rise will also be applied to other tobacco products – and to any e-liquid that contains nicotine.

Supporters of the tax are complaining that the tobacco companies are fighting it, which they certainly are – PMI, RJ Reynolds and Altria have contributed more than $65 million to fight the law – but they’re far from the only opponents. The Sacramento Taxpayers Association has condemned the proposal, labelling it “a special interest money grab”. This is a worrying, and probably accurate, assessment. Prop 56 is being presented to the public as a simple tax increase, but the money it raises will go into a special fund. This fund will be exempt from California’s usual tax rules, which mandate minimum percentages that have to be spent on education and other essential services. Instead, most of the Prop 56 money will be divided up among the groups that are supporting the tax, with MediCal being the biggest winner.

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