Right from the outset I will state what I think should be the basis for vaping advocacy. It is very straightforward. There are only two basic tenets which need to be observed.

  • Vaping advocates support the principle of Risk Reduction
  • Vaping advocates respect the views of others, and demand the same when individuals are making personal decisions based on informed choice.

Vaping is a broad church with advocates holding very different views. From my own perspective, I was so enthralled by my release from cigarette smoking that I wanted others to enjoy that same condition. However, I failed, at least initially, to recognise, rather, to recognise fully, that there are many smokers who would not share the idea that everyone wants to quit smoking: That many smokers enjoy the habit and engage in it having decided for themselves that this is what they want to do.

How dare I look critically at others for having decided on a lifestyle choice simply because it was not my choice: How on earth is that any of my business?

The first thing I do is remind myself as to where I came from – I was a life-time smoker.

On the other hand, there are many smokers who do wish to avoid what they see as danger from smoking. They have a right to consider the issues, to know there are options, and I, as a vaping advocate [at least of a kind] have a duty to ensure that my perspective on the topic is ‘out there.’ So, what do I do?

In the case of smoking, the first thing I do is remind myself as to where I came from – I was a life-time smoker. I remind myself as to what I had to endure as a smoker: fear of illness and premature death; hardship due to high prices and the cost of maintaining my habit; shame because of denormalisation measures taken by Tobacco Control organisations. I was a dirty smoker harming others because of my selfish attitude; and more: hatred of the tobacco companies who had trapped me into this lifestyle – it was their fault. And.., oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Do you see where this is leading?

Try again.

It is not easy. As soon as I start thinking of my own experience all the negatives come to the forefront, ironically, it is very easy to highlight those same things but in a format which respects the sensibilities of other people. All you do is present them as injustices, injustices that no one should have to suffer.

When you do this, you end up stating:

  • The instilling of fear in smokers in order to condition them is wrong.
  • The instilling of fear in non-smokers in order to trick them into avoiding, pressuring, or even hating smokers is wrong.
  • Trapping people into [even more] poverty is wrong.
  • Undermining people’s self-respect is wrong.
  • Lying to people by presenting false information or exaggeration is wrong.
  • Manipulation of society in general by creating hysteria is wrong.
  • Pursuing ‘health’ advocacy for reasons other than health is wrong.

And so on. There are so very many more ‘wrongs’ being levelled at smokers Look at the points above. There is not a single issue that does not, to a greater or lesser extent, apply to vaping as well as to smoking.

But smokers, some smokers, feel aggrieved at the attitudes of some in the vaping fraternity. Why?

Well, for a start, they are bombarded with comments telling them they should quit smoking. However, there is a bit of a paradox with discussion of the ‘safety’ of vaping as opposed to smoking. There is no easy way around some of this. [NOTE: we should not be ‘telling‘ anybody anything.]

But, the paradox!

Defences of vaping vs criticisms of smoking

Despite exaggerations and downright lies it remains, as far as I believe, true to say that vaping is far, far safer than smoking. This being the case, it is not wrong to promote this idea – it is information which people can refer to in order to make a choice. However, if I engage in the sort of language and tactics that we see employed by Tobacco Control; if I use the same sort of twisted arguments used to coerce smokers, i.e.., Smoking ban has saved 40,000 lives. or, Smoke-free pubs save Scots from half a tonne of toxins, or, Scientists have long recognized that cigarettes and alcohol raise the risk for later use of illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine. Here

We should not be in the business of demeaning smoking and smokers.

It is out of order. Namely, this is fearmongering, and as I stated above, this is wrong. It is a trap which is so very easy to fall into. We should not be in the business of demeaning smoking and smokers. We should avoid, where possible, reference to the dangers of smoking. I doubt that there is not a smoker anywhere who is not aware of risk so there is no need for vapers to amplify the risk. It really boils down to what motivates what we say in respect of it. Are we presenting a comparison between the relative harms between vaping and smoking? If so stick to the facts and do not indulge in dramatisations.

I would also say that comparisons between smoking and vaping should be restricted to defences of vaping and not criticisms of smoking.

That is the difficult issue. The rest is straightforward.

Even if a vaping advocate presents a risk comparison between vaping and smoking, surely to goodness the writing can be balanced with a powerful message that the Tobacco Control tactics that we have become so accustomed to are totally out of order. We can reiterate the main objections to the methods which have been employed so far to dissuade people from smoking, and I will repeat the points that should be emphasised…

  • The instilling of fear in smokers in order to condition them is wrong.
  • The instilling of fear in non-smokers in order to trick them into avoiding. pressuring, or even hating smokers is wrong.
  • Trapping people into [even more] poverty is wrong.
  • Undermining people’s self-respect is wrong.
  • Lying to people by presenting false information or exaggeration is wrong.
  • Manipulation of society in general by creating hysteria is wrong.
  • Pursuing ‘health’ advocacy for reasons other than health is wrong.

Looking at the third of these points makes me think of a recent and ongoing campaign where I have been guilty of promoting the trapping of people into more poverty.

I promoted the argument that vaping products should only be taxed according to the level of harm they present – what a mistake.

The EU is at this moment discussing excise duties on smoking and vaping. As part of the vaping campaign I have posted and promoted the argument that vaping products should only be taxed according to the level of harm they present – what a mistake. I should never defend high taxes on cigarettes in order to coerce smokers into not smoking if I am an advocate for choice.

Note the word, “coerce.” Forcing people into an action they would not otherwise make. One where they are aware of the consequences to themselves, and where the results of their choice is not harming others, is indefensible. It is also wrong because the motivation behind demands for ‘sin’ taxes are immoral. And not only are they immoral from a coercion point of view, or the fact that they are creating hardship for families of those poor people who cannot stop smoking, they are immoral due to the corrupt influence they have on those who benefit from the tax windfall, and who hide behind the lie that it is for the greater good. [I can only apologise.]

The relationship of vapers with Public Health

Now we come to the relationship of vapers with the other wing, Public Health. To date, smoking and Public Heath have been diametrically opposed. The aim of some, of the majority, of those in Public health is to work to facilitate an end game to smoking. Public Health have employed tactics which do not fit into the principles I have suggested.

In fact, that is not strictly true. Where, at one time, it might be said that all public health groups came under a single banner and were a unitary group, it is not absolutely correct to say that today. Yet, public health organisations are still mostly signed up to the, World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. [WHO FCTC] A more corrupt, vicious body one could ever hope to find. An organisation that, using the excuse of concern for people’s health, has taken to self-interest, and, now, with the advent of vaping technology, self-preservation. We can expect a very large tantrum from them in the coming years.

Public Health England and The Royal College of Physicians have broken ranks with the WHO FCTC.

We have Public Health, generally, members of the WHO FCTC, dedicated to the extinction of smoking by whatever means necessary – no morals, no care for human kindness or concern overrides [if you can believe this] the aim of eradicating smoking – except of course that now, something has come along which threatens their primacy and they are screaming and deadly dangerous as they have been backed into a corner by vaping technology, and by a vociferous bunch of ‘rag-tag’ vaping advocates. Oh, the shame!

There is, however, a group within Public Health who might be troubled at what I have just written. Or perhaps it is that I am troubled that they might be troubled at what I have just written.

Public Health England [PHE] and The Royal College of Physicians [RCP] have broken ranks with the WHO FCTC – they have endorsed true harm reduction with respect to smoking. We have to give credit where credit is due here – Despite the fact that both are powerful bodies in their own right, it took courage to honestly state that vaping is far, far safer than smoking and digress from with the WHO FCTC dogma on this issue.

This begs the question, does the vaping community owe these people anything for the support they have given to vaping?

That support has been considerable.

Yes, considerable. They have promoted harm reduction. They have stood up against ban of vaping in public areas; they have issued guidance to the medical profession supporting vaping, and more, but again, the question, do vapers owe them anything?

The short answer is, with the exception of our respect for them having taken the stance that they have, nothing else. That may sound harsh, but think about it: look at the inverse. Do these organisations owe vapers anything? And the answer is, ‘no.’ Vapers are doing something they believe passionately about and most are appreciative of some of the things PHE and the RCP have said and done, but that is it. PHE and the RCP are likewise doing what they believe is the right thing and so vaping and these organisations find themselves in tandem. However, there are problems as well.

The vaping community has to adopt a strictly moral stance

The way I see it is that the vaping community has to adopt a strictly moral stance in their approach to harm reduction. No more ‘faffing about,’ grasping at this idea and that because it happens to suit at the time – we are not the FCTC.

Everything that we do, that we say, that we adhere to has to be tested against basic principle and that means that those who choose to ally themselves to the risk reduction cause have also to agree to: support the principle of risk Reduction; demonstrate respect for the views of others, whoever they are when they are making personal decisions based on informed choice.

No doubt there are other items to be added to the list.

Smoking. A final point.

The advent of vaping technology has opened the floodgates. Where smoking rates had held steady at around the 20% mark in developed countries and where they stubbornly refused to budge we saw a sudden and dramatic decline at the same time as vaping grew in popularity. As we all should be aware the correlation between the two does not necessarily mean that one is the cause of the other, but it is looking increasingly likely that vaping has impacted on smoking rates in a major way. And now the tobacco companies are entering the field with their own versions of risk reduction products.

Heat not Burn [HnB] is a development of vapour technology that uses tobacco leaf. The ingredients are heated to produce a vapour which does not contain the same degree of harmful matter that is found in combustibles. The manufacturer of one product claimed that its product was approximately 90% safer than smoking.

If this is the case, it clearly falls into the realms of being a risk reduction product.

Risk reduction should never be feared by smokers

As far as the FCTC is concerned, this is a non-starter. This organisation will not speak or communicate with tobacco companies or anyone involved with them which is silly in the extreme as anything they have to say on the topic becomes totally one sided and irrelevant. The FCTC’s proclamations will be driven by their prohibitionist agenda and will be bereft of any moral foundation. This will place harm reductionists who are still associated with the FCTC in a very difficult position.

I will cut to the quick. Assuming that vaping advocates and organisations decide to adopt a moral and highly principled stance, staying within carefully constructed guidelines which are, in turn, based on risk reduction philosophy and consideration for the individual, where do public health advocates go? Do they remain aligned to the amoral FCTC?

Having created a moral platform, the vaping community would become the focal point for harm reduction. It would become this because of its highly principled standing. Added to this, any association between risk reductionists and the tobacco industry would be ring fenced – they would be held by their stated moral position so that any temptation to do or say anything untoward would create a conflict.

Risk reduction should never be feared by smokers because the fact of the matter is that cigarettes are not going anywhere very soon and that any reduction in the number of smokers would be through individual choice and not through coercion.

A rigid moral stance, despite contact between vapers and tobacco companies, will still witness vaping occupying the highest of high ground and will go a considerable way towards drawing the claws of the prohibitionists. But most importantly, it will stop the drift of some vapers towards supporting the nasty ideology of the FCTC. The ideology of the vaping community would return to the centre and attract all of those who wish to be a part of a genuine risk reduction movement, and all of this will come as an very unpleasant surprise to the prohibitionist FCTC.


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  1. Wow, Robert — you take my breath away sometimes! Funnily enough, I’ve been mulling over my letter to the Canadian senators and MPs, and the theme of “broad church” has been floating around in my mind for a day or so. My application was a little narrower, but you’ve given me inspiration (and maybe a few phrases that I’ll pinch!) to develop the idea of a moral centre more clearly.

  2. Brilliant! As a lifelong (well almost) smoker myself, I have tried never to criticise my smoking friends. When they visit they almost always gravitate towards the great outdoors to have a puff, which annoys me. They know I haven’t smoked for seven years so it makes them uncomfortable to actually sit down and enjoy a cigarette, which is sad. We all know that the risk of SHS is a myth but it has been used to marginalise smokers for so long that even they seem to have started to believe it! My home still contains all the ashtrays of former years so I simply plonk one down in front of them – they know I can’t resist saying “They’re your lungs” but that is the truth of it. Choice.

  3. This is a truly excellent article Robert, very well said. You’re absolutely correct that vapers have a very strong moral position to stick to which can’t be breached, the best of all worlds, health, freedom of choice and knowing that research will ultimately prove that position correct.

    Only one tiny thing I took issue with though, and that’s this: “They [friendly public health] have stood up against ban of vaping in public areas”. I don’t think even public health allies have done anything at all about stemming public vaping bans, they have largely sat back and watched them being applied without any objections. In some cases they have even applauded them. They have so much power they could bring to bear but they say nothing. You have identified the problem in your piece, they are wedded to the FCTC model of the approach to e-cigs and need to make a decision if thy’re on our side or not. Each ban convinces another member of the public that e-cigs are dangerous, if PH truly believes in THR and vaping they should be rising above the politics and saying so. They have huge power they could bring to bear on the problem but they, sadly, choose not to wield it.

    That’s not to detract from your article though, it is brilliant!

    • Yes Dick and you are correct to point this out. And I envisage a further withdrawal as the FCTC applies pressure.

  4. A really good piece. Thanks. FYI you might also like to know about this piece of bigotry which attacks unborn children of smokers and decides what they will be in life before they have even lived based on nothing more than they share the blood of a smoker http://www.nursinginpractice.com/article/crime-link-children-smokers . I’ve had four kids. I smoked when pregnant with them all. They do not have two heads, three eyes and neither have any grown up to be criminals or unwell in any way. (in fact 3 of 4 don’t smoke) Same for me as the baby born of a pregnant smoker. This is the type of crap that healthists are pushing and any support for public health bullies like Arnott or Bauld or Bates, who was right behind smoker persecution when head of ASH, to any degree is acceptance and support of this kind of abuse against smokers. What would really “help” smokers, if that is what vapers or public health really want to do rather than “help” to force them to quit or switch, is to stop the bullying first and foremost and then accept that harm reduction is possible not only by quitting or being forced to vaping or NRT, but by reducing smoking or put simply, cutting down. This is also harm reduction. Dose makes poison in all things. Part of why I’ll never vape is not just because the taste and culture doesn’t suit me, but because there is no start or end and I might vape too much. I’ve tried the e-liquid and it nearly blew my lungs out. I have never had that experience with a cigarette and I certainly don’t want a repeat of it with a vape stick. As we are always told, smoking is not vaping and vice versa. My body tells me vaping is more harmful for me but then we know, or should accept, that the one size fits all health message doesn’t fit all. There are two sides to this war and vapers are squarely in the middle. They cannot be on both sides and as a smoker who will never quit, it is useful to know whose side they on. Personally, I would rather slit my own throat, and write fcuk off in my own blood, than ever be pushed into quitting or vaping by the thugs in public health and their vaping allies. Because Public Health is such an untrustworthy and largely discredited political quango, I don’t believe a word its bigots and bullies say. I also know, because no one knows my body like I do, that to quit might kill me when I have smoked all of my life except the first 8 years after I was born. Suppressed and discredited studies show that quitting is more dangerous for lifelong smokers like me and public health has no interest in whether this might be true. To them the only good smokers are those who join in their abuse or those who die to create one less smoker in their aim for a world with no dirty filthy smokers in it.

    • Thank you for this comment PatNurse. Yes, smokers have been victim of something which is more than a health issue. I also like your statement (and other points you make) is that some need to stop the bullying first. Choice is not choice if undue pressure is being brought to bear on one side or the other.

      But take heart, another consequence of bullying is that it creates resistance and that will always grow until equilibrium is reached – the bully will always lose. But I think you know that already.

  5. If the vapours of this world think they can escape the firing squad from the prohibitionists by taking one step to the side, they are sadly mistaken. Looking at the new regulation being enforced vapours are being included by sheer default. It matters not if you adopt a social etiquette. You are sucking on something and exhaling what looks like smoke.
    That’s all they need because it is not the health factor that is the driving force to this issue it is the cosmetic and always has been. The junk science is, and always has been, a back stop argument to the issue of smoking. The overwhelming first issue out of the mouths of the anti smoking types is the smell and the smoke. When that fails they fall back to the junk science. Its about health.
    It is not doing anyone any favours by saying “WE” are different. In the eyes of the antis, you are no different. You are a gateway to real smoking and for that reason you will end up joining us on the margins.
    Stop deluding yourself that if you adopted this or that social etiquette, you’ll duck under the radar. You are firmly in the crosshairs and you will be joining us on the naughty step outside.

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