I've been taken by Linda Bauld's metaphor of the little Dutch boy. Here's what I think we need...
We all know the mythic story of the little Dutch boy, don't we? Long story short, he spotted a leak in a dam wall, shoved his finger in it, and then the big folks came along and sorted the potentially disastrous leak out properly, permanently and for ever by doing the right kind of building-y things (the kind of stuff a mechanical engineer ought to know about).
Well, Linda replied to Clive Bates's impressively penned piece (aren't they all?) on this whole aortic stiffness study crap and used the metaphor, saying we need more fingers.
And yes, we do, but we can't wait much longer for the big folks to come along and sort it out properly, permanently and for ever.
The biggest problem we have with ecigs and their uptake (which, frankly, is a good thing no matter what the new user's background might be, given that they're a locked sealed vault door blocking the passage to smoked lit tobacco) is the massive quantity of misinformation about them, which leads to folks believing they're as bad as, if not worse than smoking fags. This is the major roadblock. But why do folks think like that? Why do the majority think ecigs are at least as bad as fags?
Here's just a few of the many reasons:
- The CMO is a disingenuous charlatan.
She went on the telly box at prime time and told everyone that ecigs would give you popcorn lung. That's the message they heard. How do I know? Because folks who don't use ecigs constantly tell me "those things will give you popcorn lung" just before they light their fags. Well done Sally.
- The papers keep printing shite.
You've just got to look at Tuesday's Sun (frankly not worth using even as toilet roll, but shed loads of people read it, although goodness only knows why). "Ecigs as bad as fags". Yeah, right. All those Sun readers now have another stick with which to beat vapers over the head. "It was in the papers, so it must be true". Uh-huh
- The Department of Health and MHRA managed to sign us up full tilt into the Tobacco Products Directive, and even though they've been as light touch as possible, folks still see that these things are so dangerous that they have to be regulated like tobacco. How do I know this? Because they tell me so. "Well, Dave, I know you think they're great and fine and safe enough, but if they were, there wouldn't need to be all these rules from Europe about them, would there? I mean, they must be as bad as fags if they're in the same set of rules". Sound familiar?
- The BMA keeps spouting shite.
I've lost count of the number of times folks who ought to have at least three functioning brain cells have quoted the BMA at me, saying "They're doctors, they ought to know - those things are bad for you". Some of them are even doctors - you know, proper MDs - but they don't do doctory things. They've become thought leaders and public health leaders - which brings me to...
- Public Health keeps echoing all the shite from the above points.
And they do. They can't help themselves. Not all of the PH bods, obviously, but enough with loud enough voices that it's damned near impossible for we proles to publicly shout them down.
The bottom line is this. As ecig activists, we "normal people" have little in the way of a voice. The NNA, of which I'm proud to be a part, does much good work behind the scenes (and gets the piss taken out of it by folks who really ought to know better), but doesn't have the clout it needs (or, frankly, the money and resources) to get the same sort of telly time as the CMO, BMA DoH, MHRA and PH in general in order to reassure people.
Yes, people like Linda Bauld, Marcus Munafo, Clive Bates, Gerry Stimson, Chris Russell, Konstantinos Farsalinos, Jacques Le Houesec and a small number of others do keep sticking their fingers in the dam. But where the hell are the big boys?
Here's what needs to happen. CRUK, ASH (all of them), RCP, PHE and FRESH (and all of the other alphabet orgs) need to pressure the Department of Health and our government in general to do the following:
1. Get rid of every aspect of Article 20 from UK law, as it is currently enacted in the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR). And do it now. Not later, NOW
2. Make a massive song and dance about it. Get big hitters on the telly and radio telling the world that enough is enough, we've finally taken the decision to ignore the denialists like McKee and Chapman, and their arse-lickers in Public Health in the UK and get 100% behind ecigs, because, for goodness' sake, they are safe enough, don't need draconian regulation, and we want to see them thrive.
3. Sit down with the NNA, IBVTA, ECITA and others and work out what the minimum is with regard to regulation (I'd suggest a blacklist on certain substances in eliquid is all that's actually needed), and them implement that, and, again, make a doing and dance about it.
4. While this is happening, put 10 million quid into a mass media campaign telling everyone, repeatedly, that ecigs are OK, they're safe enough, and any scare stories in the papers are a farago of lies and propaganda. And announce that they'll take any paper that prints shite like that through IPSO and the courts and impose financial penalties on them.
If the above named orgs actually do believe that ecigs are a good thing, they need to do this, back this and make this happen. No excuses, no ifs or buts. This isn't rocket science. They need to divorce themselves from any Pharma interventions. As far as ASH is concerned, if they cannot see that these actions I've outlined will have the very positive effect of actually doing their job for them, then they should be de-funded and abolished, because they're patently incapable of seeing logic and are working to ideology. The same applies to all the other orgs, as well.
To be honest, I've had enough of the mealy-mouthed "Well, yes ecigs are good BUT" rhetoric. I'm fed up of constantly firefighting the shite that comes out of Glantzianism stables of propaganda and denialism. There's a small number of us (in absolute terms) that have dedicated our lives to fighting this battle, and we've been patted on the head and told it'll all work out in the end.
Well, the end needs to be before the end of 2016. This needs to happen, and it needs to happen now. No more platitudes, it's time for the big folks to put their money where their mouths are and stand with vapers 100%. Nothing else will suffice.