Thursday 5 October 2017

Who's Standing Up To Stop Vaping Being Used As A Tool Of Coercion?

For years, many smokers have expressed concern about e-cigs to me. They are obviously quite happy for others to exercise their choice to vape, but they are worried that e-cigs - if accepted by the authorities - will be used as a tool to bully them into quitting smoking. I have always said that these fears are far-fetched, and I certainly would never agree with the idea of any organisation being so crass.

In the UK, acceptance of vaping is arguably more advanced than anywhere else in the world, but it is still true that it is only spoken about by 'public health' in terms of smoking cessation. Yes, there are a very few who understand that long term vaping is fine, but they are just admirable outliers. Remember that this is the official government line on vaping, as expressed in July's Tobacco Control Plan.
The best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking. However, the evidence is increasingly clear that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than smoking tobacco.  
DH will monitor the impact of regulation and policy on e-cigarettes and novel tobacco products in England, including evidence on safety, uptake, health impact and effectiveness of these products as smoking cessation aids to inform our actions on regulating their use.
The word "recreational" does not appear once in the whole 32 page report. E-cigs are seen solely as something that will help smokers quit. The whole category is viewed through the lens of health, entirely ignoring the fact that it is continued enjoyment of nicotine that is the foundation beneath the huge success of vaping.

It is still good that our country is leading the way - albeit with ridiculous caution - on this kind of subject, because we are seeing other jurisdictions looking awkwardly our way and realising they are being a bit, well, prehistoric.

So recently we saw the FDA in America marginally relax their hardline stance on risk reduced products and - very surprisingly - now Australia is starting to move on the matter too. It's all the talk over there right now.

It's like some in Australia's health community have finally buckled. They tried to brazen it out as the last (allegedly) enlightened nation to resist common sense, but the comparison of their e-cigs policy to knuckle-headed candlemakers resisting the advance of electricity must have finally told.

The transformation has been incredible though! Dr Marita Hefler - a woman not previously noted for any particular positive stance on e-cigs - has changed the conversation from one extreme (prohibition of vaping) to another (prohibition of tobacco).
A leading Australian health researcher has called for a total ban on cigarettes as a new study finds millions of deaths could be prevented if smokers switched to electronic cigarettes.  
Menzies School of Health researcher Dr Marita Hefler says the rapid evolution of alternative nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, meant outlawing combustible tobacco, including cigarettes, was now possible.
Just a few weeks ago 'public health' Australians were queueing up to tell a government inquiry that e-cigs were rubbish. Now they are apparently so effective that vaping justifies the government banning smoking altogether. Exactly what smokers have been telling me they have been afraid of.

How has this kind of fascistic nonsense - which I'm sure other tobacco controllers worldwide, however supportive of vaping they are, secretly dream of - happened? Well, it seems pretty clear that vaping is being considered by 'public health' solely as a cessation tool. I've long argued that e-cigs can be viewed as both a way to quit smoking, if one chooses, but also as a recreational device one would choose to indulge in. Both arguments are persuasive so I've always been supportive of both.

But with the first open admission that tobacco control want to use e-cigs to force smokers away from tobacco, it's clear that the other side have no intention of honouring the freedom of choice approach, they exclusively regard e-cigs as a method of coercion, nothing more, nothing less. They feel they have captured the idea and are now promoting it - see Stoptober - as just another tool in their armoury on the way to the 'endgame' and full prohibition of tobacco.

At the end of December, Carl Phillips described 2016 as "The year tobacco control officially came to own e-cigarettes", and this new development only serves to prove that he is correct. The whole debate has become a clusterfuck.

'Public health' talk about cessation, vaping industry associations talk about cessation to 'public health', tobacco companies talk about cessation to 'public health', vaping advocates talk about cessation to 'public health'. Where are the advocates for choice for vapers and also for smokers?

As Paul Barnes said today, quite rightly:
I’m sure I don’t need to remind you, but vaping isn’t a stick to go around beating smokers with.
No, it's not, but no-one seems to be that bothered about stopping it being used as such. 

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