Tuesday 11 August 2015

Dick Out And About In Shrewsbury

On Saturday we Puddlecotes went on holiday or, to be more accurate, we grown up Puddlecotes withdrew a ton of money which the little Ps will mostly spend on our behalf. On the way, though, we dragged them to Vapefest 2015 to put them through some excruciating boredom beforehand.

Held in Shrewsbury, Vapefest is an event which attracts much of the beard, tattoo and piercing lung-loading end of the vaping market as you can see from this overview vid.

Not exclusively though, and I was invited by Vapers in Power as part of their programme to introduce vapers to the unavoidable politics which e-cigs have prompted, and the idea of advocacy. There were a number of speakers during the two days, Simon Clark and I were scheduled for about tea time on the Saturday (you can read his write-up of the experience here). We both spoke for a few minutes before a very enthusiastic Q&A session.

I chose to speak about why vapers should support smokers in objecting to smoking bans and made a few mnemonic notes as a guide before taking the microphone. As such, I can't say that this is what I said verbatim because it was mostly off the cuff, and there was a fair amount of digression with an engaged audience, but it's not too far off the mark.
Thank you for the invitation, especially from Liam, to speak.

I'm going to explain why vapers should stand up with smokers against smoking bans. The very simple reason is that anything visited upon smokers will eventually happen to vapers too, without question. We know this because it is already happening. From memory I can only think of one case where legislators have made exceptions for e-cigs.

There have been two recent examples to speak of. In February, Scottish hospitals were told by the devolved government to ban smoking in NHS grounds and even the car park, there was nothing in the government directive about e-cigs - in fact, that decision was left entirely up to NHS managers - but all except one NHS trust included e-cigs anyway. The BBC reported one NHS spokesman as saying:
"They should be treated like any other nicotine product"
And in June, Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals in London proudly announced on Twitter that their outdoor smokefree policy included e-cigs. The trust's smokefree policy revealed the justification for their loony decision was that:
"They are currently not regulated as a tobacco product or as a medicine"
This statement illustrates the mistrust of e-cigs from the 'public health' community. If e-cigs are regulated as a tobacco product it will be banned; if they are regulated as a medicine, it will price them out of the market and eradicate the appeal. In the view of the NHS, vaping will never be accepted.

Now, some of you may know that I'm not overly keen on ASH, but I don't think vapers were pleased with them either when they eagerly retweeted the brilliant news from Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals. They have also raised little objection to other bans that include vaping.

ASH are, however, very happy with outdoor smoking bans and have supported the silly idea of a ban in Hyde Park, along with Brighton's proposed ban on beaches - which also may include pub gardens - along with outdoor bans in Bristol and proposals for the same in Leicester.

It's a fact that everywhere smoking is banned, e-cigs are included. The New York parks ban includes vaping, as have bans in Canada and elsewhere. Just yesterday, Boulder Colorado announced that their ban on smoking in social housing will include pot and e-cigs too. That's vaping in the home. Banned.

The reason why vaping is not excluded despite being completely different is that politicans, civil servants and managers cannot be bothered to make difficult decisions, they like easy rules. You can lobby them as much as you like to exclude e-cigs but the default is to just ban vaping along with smoking because it's just simpler that way.

You can see the same principle in the case of sports stadia. Wembley, Twickenham and Cardiff's Millennium Stadium already ban vaping, amongst others, and in other venues where it is not in the ground regs, it's not worth asking for a ruling because the easiest decision would be just to ban to save confusion. None of these people understand vapers or smokers so would simply write one line in the regs including e-cigs in their policy and have done with it.

Now, I'd ask you to think back to before July 1st 2007 when the smoking ban in England began. Do you really think anyone would have even the remotest objection to e-cigs inside or out if it weren't for the ban on smoking? No-one would have batted an eyelid at vaping if it wasn't for the smoking ban. There is a direct causal link between smoking bans and bans on vaping. If you're standing outside with your inoffensive e-cig, you have a smoking ban to blame it on.

I've said this before on the blog but it's worth saying again. Every e-cig ban - and I mean every one - is directly as a result of prejudice-driven smoking bans. Without exception. One follows the other surely as night follows day.

Yesterday I watched a video of a woman who had quit smoking using e-cigs and was rightly proud of it. She wasn't ashamed of having been a smoker as she enjoyed it, she even still identified with smokers much to her credit. But she described how she goes to the smoking area to vape along with others, even saying vapers outnumbered the smokers. This is just plain wrong and I worry that vapers are already self-shaming like many smokers did to allow disgraceful people to ride roughshod over them.

Vapers are a powerful vocal force and should be vehemently objecting to any ban on vaping, anywhere. To see meek submission in the face of ignorance and bigotry from anti-smoking obsessives was very disappointing and could serve to weaken the impact empowered vapers are slowly having on politicians.

Because politicians get a pat on the back from lobbyists for passing smoking bans, and - whether they put them in place by law or leave it up to the NHS, private businesses or others - the result is always the same, e-cigs are lumped in too. Starbucks, Wetherspoons, Scottish hospitals, sports stadia, you name it, the list of places vaping is now banned for no reason is endless.

Today at Vapefest we're seeing thousands of people who are proud of their kit and their innocent pleasure, they shouldn't be thinking of themselves as outcasts, nor should anyone else. Vapers shouldn't self-shame, they should be proudly and confidently rejecting and fighting vaping bans wherever they are suggested. The most effective way of doing that is to stop bans happening to smokers in the first place.
Well that's what I think anyway. Feel free to discuss.

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