Help or - in the long term - hindrance?

You may have heard of "The Truth Initiative". It's a research body in the US that, for we vapers at least, takes an interest in ecigs. Apparently they've done a survey and, having surveyed and spent countless millions of dollars to complete it, have some suggestions, observations and so on, upon which I feel the need to comment. Here's a pictorial snap of their conclusions:

1: Most current and former smokers correctly perceive e-cigarettes to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes:
Well, yes. If you believe the tobacco control cabal, that's not a particularly high bar. TTI (The Truth Initiative) missed out on the opportunity to convey the truthful notion that, statistically, it's also less harmful than pulling your trousers on standing up (many deaths per annum attributed to this seemingly innocuous activity), less harmful than motorcycling - and you can fill in a few more yourself.

2: A majority of those using e-cigarettes are using them to quit smoking:
Now I'm starting to get annoyed - didn't take long, did it?
Look, worldwide, no vape shop, either online or B&M, is allowed to claim the medicinal property of "smoking cessation device" for any ecig product, without having first applied for and obtained the equivalent of a marketing authorisation from the MHRA in the UK, FDA in the US or any other competent body. But bodies like TTI (and just about every so-called "friend" of vaping in Public Health) continually refers to "smoking cessation", "Quitting" and other terms that a vape vendor cannot legally use like it's what ecigs are all about. They've done this to the extent that even vape advocates have been taken in and are now openly and loudly shouting about "Helping Smokers To Quit" using ecigs. FFS - they've crossed the line and gone to the Tobacco Control side. It boils my piss. If this continues, ecigs WILL become medicinal devices - mark my words.

I'm not going to use the rest of the numbers - so bear with...

RISK
Look, nothing in this world is risk-free. Nothing. There is no such thing as 100% safe, truly. And we need, I think, to stop comparing the risk of ecig usage with the risk of smoking. We know enough now to know that the risk profile of vaping is lower than many normal everyday activities, because we have ten years of data (anecdotal, yes, but nonetheless valid for that) that has shown no deaths and no major trauma from the act of vaping. The same cannot be said for driving, motorcycling,  skiing, horse riding, pedal cycling - the list goes on. 
Of course, some bright spark will yell "battery explosions". Yell all you like. That's a diversion. Nothing whatever to do with vaping, battery incidents are battery incidents, just as a tyre iron falling on your foot has bugger all to do with biking or driving - it's a tyre iron incident, not a driving incident.
What vaping is is an entirely new category of activity that happens to also include nicotine usage. That's a lot like caffeine usage, the main difference being that one is inhaled, the other imbibed. After that, there's more or less no difference at all. There MAY be a risk involved in the inhalation part of the activity, but, if that is the case, then the MHRA, FDA, ASH and  Public Health bodies need to concern themselves with haze machines (yes, it's exactly the same stuff). Yet they don't. Why? because such machines and the atmospheres they produce have been extensively researched by lawyers, unions and union lawyers looking for ways to litigate and make a money grab. They have not found a foothold. The conclusion is obvious. No problem.

And that, I think, is what is boiling the piss of the alphabet orgs. There is no problem with ecigs. They're safe enough for anyone (with certain very rare exceptions) to use for any purpose - although that purpose will mostly be enjoyment.

We cannot escape what follows: people WILL take up ecigs purely for enjoyment. They need not be targetted solely at smokers. They are NOT a quit tool, no matter what the alphabet orgs are trying to get people to espouse. They are a tool for enjoyment that people can use for whatever purpose they see fit. That, in a very large number of cases, their use results in someone ceasing another activity, which other folks may or may not approve of, is a happy (for some) side effect. It is NOT the be all and end all.

I've seen a number of folks jumping on this survey and loudly proclaiming that this could be the saviour of vaping. Well, I'm sorry, but it isn't. It is the saviour of MEDICINAL vaping. It casts vaping as a smoking cessation tool. It does not acknowledge the pleasure principle, it does not acknowledge the individual's right to choose, it does not acknowledge the relative safety of vaping versus everyday activities that also carry a risk. It does nothing for vaping, and everything for tobacco control.

Realise that, and you realise exactly what Tobacco Control is attempting - to define the agenda and define what you will be allowed to use ecigs for. And, as vapers, as advocates, as individuals, we must reist that with every sinew.

Cinnamaldehyde and bollocks - THAT study...

It happens all the time. People - like one Doctor Helen O'Neil - open a twitter account, post some bollocks and then close it when they're challenged. It's the tactic of cowards, in my opinion, because they usually do it in order to escape critique and debate.

The above mentioned person has been the impetus behind a particularly egregious press release that has (almost word for word in two newspapers (a term I use lightly)) gained some traction and notoriety without one paragraph of the study to which it refers being published anywhere I can find.

Bottom lining the whole thing, it reckons that vaping such a flavouring as Cinnamon (the "chemical flavouring" for which is Cinnamaldehyde, also present in Cinnamon itself) renders a bloke's sperm immotile, or, at least, damaged such that his fertility is compromised.

The mechanism for this, of course, is that cinnamaldehyde enters the bloodstream via the lungs - it's being vaped - and travels bollock-wards in the bloodstream. According to the good doctor, that's where it wreaks havoc. It makes a bollock of the swimmers in the bollocks.

But hang on a mo. If you EAT cinnamon (also containing vast quantities of Cinnamaldehyde (did you like my use of the researcher's "vast" there?)) it, too, enters the bloodstream, and, given that it's in there, also heads bollock-wards, where it, too will etc.etc.etc.

Now, there's no need to get into bio-availability here, but I think I just might. I'm going to suggest that, in vapour, the amount of cinnamaldehyde present is really very low. Eaten, it's highly likely that there will be a greater quantity entering the body. How much of either will enter the bloodstream is, as far as I'm aware, unknown. Dr O'Neil should have studied that. As far as I know, she didn't. Given that she's actually an early career "expert" on reproductive mechanisms, if the vape scenario rang danger bells, she should, as a matter of urgency, in fact, have broadened the study to discover what could be vital information for those seeking to reproduce.

In other words, if there's a substance that adults (and cheeldrens) the world over imbibe, ingest, eat, swallow, vape or even breathe that can adversely affect their reproductive capabilities, then the world deserves to know.

But, of course, she hasn't gone there. Nope. SHe's just made sure that alarmist drivel about ecigs gets press released to as many papers as possible. Apparently, she's going to be presenting this load of bollocks to a conference around about now. The folks there will know nothing much about vaping. They're quite likely to take her word for it. Unless, of course, they get to see the study itself and can actually think.

UPDATE:

Professor Peter Hajek has had his say...

 

 And he knows. thankfully, other proper scientists are getting involved, too.

And he knows. thankfully, other proper scientists are getting involved, too.

Shall we define "Safe"?

I keep seeing it, you keep seeing it - those anti-nicotine who say stupid things like "Yes, ecigs are safer than smoking, but they're not SAFE".

 Nothing is safe - really. The word "safe" ALWAYS needs a modifier.

Nothing is safe - really. The word "safe" ALWAYS needs a modifier.

Here's MY point... NOTHING is safe. Nothing. There is no such thing as "safe" in the real world.

Every instance of "safe" needs a modifier - even the definitions to the left there have modifiers - "Safe from marine predators" - but not devoid of all risks. "Not likely to lead to harm or injury" - again, implies zero risk, but the example given, crossing a river where it is "safe to do so" actually DOES involve risk.
So, in truth when we're talking ecigs, and we want to use the word "safe", I think we actually can. They are "safe" ENOUGH to satisfy the generally accepted definitions of "safe".

Is crossing a main road safe? Well, no, not absolutely. It always involves some risk. So, is NOT crossing the road safe? Nope, probably not, as it, too involves some risk (as in a bus, car, whatever may mount the kerb on the side you're on and hit you, so, for all its risks, crossing the road may have been safer in that scenario). So given two possible actions, neither is safe.

Enter the risk assessment. Anyone who has spent any time whatever working in the entertainment industry (or any other that involves folks actually doing things) will have conducted risk assessments. Since it's generally acknowledged that nothing can ever be described as "safe", we now have to assess the risks of doing absolutely everything. And I do mean everything. And then we have to mitigate or minimise those risks.
Guess what ecigs do! Yup - they mitigate and minimise the risks of using nicotine.

AND THEY'RE SAFE ENOUGH. SAFE ENOUGH TO BE CALLED "SAFE". OK?

Patience is a virtue anti-smokers don't have

Yet again, we see ecig supporting anti-tobacco folks losing perspective - and it won't help. 

Apparently there have been calls - with, it says 'ere, support from "the public" to "voluntarily ban" (no idea - you work it out - it's either a ban or it isn't) smoking from children's playgrounds, zoos, theme parks and so on. As discussions appear about it on Twitter, the motives behind the call become more and more clear.

It's about "denormalisation", it seems.  

Now, lest you know not what that means, when Tobacco Controllers use the term, what they really mean is "stigmatisation". Part of their playbook is to "make smoking seem less normal". They do this by making it very difficult for a smoker to light up anywhere where they're going to be seen. Well, that's their aim. In the same breath, however, they speak their support for indoor smoking bans, and forcing smokers out into whatever the weather throws down that day in order to enjoy a few drags. 

In effect, then, and certainly in cities (you know, places with dense populations (no jokes at the back there)), they throw folks out from adult places where kiddies aren't allowed (or welcomed, in my own case) into the streets where kiddies are passing by all the time, thereby making it seem very normal (as it indeed is) to see crowds of folks stood together creating a nice blue fug and enjoying each other's company. It's otherwise known as shooting yourself in the foot, something TC does very well and very often. 

Because it was never about protecting the health of the staff in adult venues (a fair of percentage of whom smoked anyway). 

But now, of course, they don't just want to throw folks out. They want to, basically, prevent the cheeeeldrenz from ever seeing anyone smoke at all. Because that, to them "normalises" something that has always been normal. And, you see, their definition of "normal" changes to suit their agenda. They'll move stats around in order to change it, at the drop of a hat, depending on what they're talking about. And then, if it's politically correct, they'll say "that's not normal". Or, depending on the agenda, "that's perfectly normal". I could give an example here, but I'm not going to. Let's just say that when it comes to inclusivity, if they don't like what you are or do, or, more importantly, if they can't derive some advantage from supporting you, you are to be included out!

And it's that notion of supporting stuff that's causing me to become a tad agitated. An otherwise seemingly sensible director of Public Health who has very loudly professed and confessed his support for ecigs also supports this anti-smoker notion. His idea (well, probably not his, but it's one he espouses) is that putting these bans (voluntary or otherwise) in place will force people onto ecigs. There are two major errors in this thinking. 

First, anyone who thinks they won't go after a public vaping ban once they've got the smoker numbers down is living in cloud cuckoo land. Of course they will - what used to be anti-tobacco is rapidly moving towards anti-nicotine, largely fuelled, in this humble writer's opinion, by the Pharmaceutical Companies having realised that it's an effective palliative (if not a cure) for a number of debilitating afflictions. And they want the patents on the remedies. 

The second is thinking that smokers will respond to this pressure in the way he - and other tobacco controlllers - thinks they will. And, of course, they won't. For many years, the smoking prevalence in the UK was stuck at around the 20% mark. Yes, it edged downwards, but, until ecigs came along, resolutely refused to drop below it. Now, roughly five years after ecigs hit mainstream, we're at 16.8% prevalence. Anyone, ANYONE, who refuses to see the root cause of this drop is either, again, deluded, or is an inveterate liar. 

In other words, all the sticks they used to beat smokers with failed miserably. The major success came because of the carrot that ecigs represent. The Pleasure Principle kicked in and lo and behold, what TC had been trying for and failing at suddenly happens. 

What "they" need is patience. Promote and support ecigs unconditionally, and the industry will continue to come up with more and more pleasurable and effective devices and liquids, so much so that the vast majority of folks will so much prefer them to smoking that smoking will simply be forgotten in a generation or three. Organically. By choice. Without any sticks. 

It's not exactly hard to understand, is it? 

Ecigs - who are they for, and why?

I feel the need to brain dump. Do forgive! 

There's all kinds of stuff floating about at the moment, and some of it is making me feel uneasy. Uneasy, because, for six years, at least, I have been fighting for the freedom to vape as one sees fit. In last Monday's VTTV show, I made a statement. It went like this:
 "I don't care what you vape, how you vape, or why you vape, you're a vaper. I don't care what resistance your coil is,  how big your cloud is, or what device you use, you're a vaper". I stand by that, but I think I may need to add a little so folks properly get it. 

Ecigs are, for me, an alternative to smoking. They are not for "quitting" with - that is NRT or the execrable varenicline or champix as we know it in the UK. Neither are they "smoking" per se - given that smoking involves combustion, and, if we are to believe what we're told, now claims the early demise of 2 out of every 3 users (up from the 1 in two of last year's Tobacco Control Propaganda).

No, they are neither of those things. They are a third thing, with multiple descriptions: 

1. They CAN be a quit device - if they have received a medicinal marketing authorisation, and are prescribed/recommended by stop smoking "experts" because the folks who have properly ASKED for help have asked to go down that route. IN other words, NRT. And if used as NRT, quite probably just as effective (/sarcasm).  BUT, they should not be given out free of charge.

2. They ARE an alternative way to "smoke" - if that's how you see it. And plenty of folks do - I meet vapers every day who will tell you they "smoke" an ecig. They see themselves as smokers, they even go out to the smoking sheds and hang with their smoking mates, they just enjoy ecigs more and accept the "smoker" stigma - because they're just happy that way. The Pleasure Principle in action. In Public Health terms, though, they're NOT smokers. 

3. They ARE an alternative to smoking. This is THE most important and accurate (in my mind) descriptor.  Buckle up - here we go:

For aeons, human beings have utilised plant-derived substances to make their daily grind more pleasurable - in the South Americas, thay may be the leaves of the Coca plant, which are chewed as a stimulant (and refined by western cultures into cocaine, or Colombian Marching Powder). Unsurprisingly, the cultures that do this are somewhat shocked that it's illegal over here in the "civilized" world. For them it's part of their day. And then there's coffee. Folks worldwide drink the stuff, same as with tea. In fact both plant derived substances have massive businesses built around them. Some folks even chase civets around to pick their poop up for particularly pungent coffee making beans. Does any given a hoot?

We imported tobacco use into our culture(s) centuries ago. The thing is, we only invented cigarettes well under 150 years ago. Prior to that, that didn't exist. Now, I don't know why there's so much opposition to people smoking cigarettes - my take on it is simple, really. If you're in full possession of the facts on the risks and benefits and choose to do something, then that's your business. Nobody else's. So I'm good with it.

However, as I've often said before, if there's a less risky way to do something, and you fancy having a go at it, then that, also, is fine by me.  That, then, would be the alternative to smoking.

And people have to got to acknowledge some truths about it.

1: People who have never smoked are going to have a go. Some will continue, some won't.

2: Very, very few will ever, following having had a go, move to smoking lit tobacco. Indeed, vaping could (and probably should) substitute for smoking entirely. That is to say that, if every person over the age of <put an arbitrary number in here, you might as well, because age restrictions are bullshit and easy to bypass>  years were to take up vaping, there'd still be a public health gain - even Simon Chapman implicitly acknowledges that. There'd be a gain (again , you have to buy into the TC propaganda) because ecigs are highly unlikely to carry more than 1% of the risk of smoking - and the risks they do carry are not health risks per se, so we could wave bye-bye to lung cancer, COPD, cancer of the pancreas and so on and so on and so forth (remember the TC propaganda I mentioned? Insert your own beliefs here). Oh - add house fires to that. Just don't buy a Samsung Galaxy phone.

3: There'll still be a select (and, hopefully, rapidly diminishing) group of prohibitionist "refrain from everything because we say so" so-called "Public Health" grandees that will fight ecigs every step of the way. They'll much prefer that ecigs are seen in a medicinal light, who will not accept that, as an alternative to smoking, ecigs could, indeed, achieve what their pathetic real-life trolling of smokers has singularly failed to do. And that is so annoying for them, because it shows them up for what they are. Interfering busybodies so concerned with controlling other people that their own weight balloons and their empathy disappears.

So, to sum up, before you get bored. 

1: ecigs are not, have never been and should never be a medicine. They cure nothing. 

2: ecigs ARE an alternative to smoking that should be available to everyone, on their own terms.  

3: ecigs ARE NOT a tool for public health types to use to control us, the citizens of the world. 

Too libertarian?  You've seen nothing yet.

Valhor Morgulis... 

A good news day?

While I really do like that we have had two very good news stories today, I'm still a tad frustrated, and here's why. 

I'm going to assume you've read  this study and this editorial - if you haven't, you need to.

To me, they're indicative of the "We told you so" moment, and that is, frankly, fabulous. But I'll tell you what unnerved me when I read it. It dawned on me, as I ran through the study, that this was very, very "ecigs as NRT" based. And I do not like that at all.

As you get further on in the narrative, you discover that, although the headline writers have trumpeted the "18,000 extra quitters due to ecigs"  line, that's a figure that has been derived using the notion that two thirds of quitters relapse. (And that's being optimistic - as we know, NRT is way less than 10% successful over a 12 month period). 

If you're a vaper, or know one, who has been vaping a while - and I'm talking, in my case, about over seven years - then you'll know that someone who has switched to ecigs, rather than used them to "make a quit attempt" doesn't "relapse". There's nothing to "relapse" to - because they haven't quit - that is, they haven't become nicotine abstinent. Very few fully switched vapers ever go back to smoking cigarettes, unless their ill-advised governments decide to ban ecigs and impose draconian fines and imprisonment - but that's a side issue here.

No, the bottom line is simple. Someone who replaces smoking with an ecig isn't likely to relapse. But someone who uses ecigs as NRT is, basically, just using a nicer, and probably more effective (60% or so) for of NRT - and, as the study points out, people DO relapse from NRT. 

Now, look, I'm sure as I can be that the medics and Public Health folks are very pleased with the results of this study. And I'm sure that a whole raft of what have been referred to as "born again" vaping types will also be well chuffed. But I'm frustrated as all hell. Because, yet again, the establishment is forgetting that there is such a thing as the Pleasure Principle. That ecigs are NOT a bloody medicine, and to treat them as one, as in this case, is doing them a dis-service. 

And, yes, I know I keep banging on about this. And I'll keep on banging on about it, and I'll tell you why.  

In less than two months, those awfully nice people at the FCTC are going to make pronouncements on ecigs, and we all know what they're going to try to do. In amongst all of their wibble, they do keep mentioning that if ecigs were medicinally licensed, they'd be OK with it, translating their wibble into proper language. That's because their paymasters, the Pharmaceutical industry, would be able to walk in and clean up, in my view (my honestly held opinion, that is, libel lawyers please note). And, guess what? Every time there's a study like this, based on the medicinal usage of ecigs as just another form of NRT, it gives the FCTC and its COPs more ammunition.

And I don't think that's a good thing. 

In short, I think we do know enough to be able to say that ecigs are safe enough to take them off the leash and allow them to flourish.  And yes, whether other folks like it or not, I also think that if we did exactly that, then traditional smoking of lit tobacco would be counting its days - and that's not because it's something I want to see, but because, frankly, it makes sense!

Let's face it - think of any activity you've always wanted to try, but didn't because it was just too risky. If there was a way of trying said activity with less than five percent of the risk, you'd more than likely have a go, wouldn't you? That way, you'd find out whether you liked it or not, and could then make an informed choice. BUT... the likelihood of you then deciding to go the twenty or more times more risky route would be massively low.

And so it is with ecigs, in my view. Yes, folks who have never smoked are going to take them up and try them - it would be disingenuous to say otherwise, and it's something we have to acknowledge - but, if they're safe enough, I don't see that as a problem. If they're unlikely to take what some see as "the next step", then neither is that a problem. I'm good with it.

But this is markedly different from viewing ecigs as just a fancy schmancy new form of NRT. 

This post is likely to piss a few folks off. Well, I'll have to live with that, but it would be dishonest of me not to make my feelings plain on this. 

So, yes, I wlecome the "we told you so" moment, but I'm worried about implications going forward. 

OK - here's me stance on smoking, vaping and evangelism

Guess who's fed up of the "evangelical, born again" taunts that are flung about from certain quarters  

First up, and before we get into the meat, a précis of "my story". I never, ever wanted to pack in smoking. The propaganda got me to give it a go once, in the eighties, and I managed a week before I went back to being happy. I didn't want to do that, but I felt forced into it. Worthy of note.

When Ecigs came into my life - purely accidentally, as a mate came into my studio using one, and I tried and liked it, and saw a way to "smoke" indoors without getting into bother - it wasn';t because I was seeking to "be free of cigarettes". I didn't want to "be free of cigarettes" . As it turned out, I ended up switching entirely to ecigs because - and this is vitally important - I liked them (and still do like them) more than I liked smoking.

That seems to be a hard concept for some folks to grasp. It's pretty much like changing your brand of, say, breakfast cereal. If you don't like the new one, you'll go back to the old one. If you find one you like better, you'll stick with it. If the new one happens to be "better for you" than the old one, then that's a bit of a bonus. If it's also cheaper, then get the flags out - it's a pure win! 

But do you go evangelising your new cereal to all and sundry, telling everyone they ought to drop their beetawix in the bin and go for the shreddopops because <insert whatever reasons you're being evangelical for>? Do you hell as like. 

You may mention that you've found a new cereal and it's really nice, but you don't keep going on and one and on about it. 

Well, I'm the same with ecigs. Bottom line, I like them, I prefer them to smoking, they're cheaper for me, and I suspect they may not be as risky as we're told fags are. And please note that "as we're told fags are", because, given that I've found out just how much Tobacco Control is prepared to lie, I will never, ever take anything they say at face value ever again. 

Do I go out to convert folks? No. If you follow me on Twitter, or if we're friends on Facebook, then you'll note I rarely, if ever, join in on the vaperversary stuff that happens. You switched. Good for you. I've got mates who are dual users. Do I berate them for not being fully switched? No, and not just because I want to keep them as mates, but also because, frankly, what they do with ecigs, fags, motorbikes, melons or strangely shaped candles is entirely their business, and none of mine. It's just a bit of a crying shame that other folks - OK, Tobacco Control - can't take the same attitude. 

Does that mean I fight the tobacco companies' corner? No, it doesn't. I owe them nothing, I have no loyalty to them. But I do rail against what I see as being unreasonable behaviour when it comes to governments and - you guessed it - Tobacco Control - constantly discriminating against them. So the whole plain packs nonsense is just that - nonsense. Sin taxes are, in my mind, despicable - they're not a tax on the companies (and neither is that levy ASH is so keen on) - they're designed to force people to conform to a blueprint that nannies want. And that's just wrong. 

BUT... 

When I'm doing what I do with the NNA, or when I'm called on to speak with legislaters, I know that what are probably quite libertarian principles are less likely to achieve what we want than other tactics.  So, sometimes I'm going to come across as maybe a bit born again. As in "this is why what you're proposing is going to be bad for public health". 

So, yes, I do get fed up with certain folks constantly chucking this "Evangelist anti-smoker vaper advocate" line. On the whole, we're not. We're trying to get the best deal possible for vapers and vaping. Unpaid (in the UK).

In fact it costs me to do what I do.

So I get to say this.

If you don't like it, either STFU or, in delicate terms, go forth and multiply (that's the polite phrase for "FUCK OFF").

Time for REAL action

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.

 

 The only way to stop this shite is by the Big Folks doing what I've asked. 

The only way to stop this shite is by the Big Folks doing what I've asked. 

I want OUT. Let us LEAVE.

So, I'm for #LEAVE. There. I said it. Here's why: 

1: I'm a vaper. Have been for seven years and counting. So I saw from the inside what the Tobacco Products Directive process was like. And it wasn't democratic at all. We had a disgraced commissioner who knew nothing at all about Ecigs design a proposal based on lies and innuendo to hand over to an ENVI committee who also knew nothing, which then designated a rapporteur who denounced the likes of Peter Hajek and Jacques Le Houesec (both very prominent names in BRITISH universities) as "Foreigners I've never heard of". She then, in a "fact finding day" produced only negative so-called "experts" and only ONE actual user, whose native tongue was German and who was offered absolutely NO translation facilities. 

When, even after that, the parliament voted against the worst bits and supported the amendments so hard fought for by Vapers all over Europe, said rapporteur tricked them into allowing her to take the whole thing to "Trialogue", where, again, even with opposition from those who knew better than she, she steamrollered through a dog's breakfast of what became Article 20, and we'd have known nothing about it, except for the fact that we, as Vapers, kept a very close eye on what went on. 

But what else happens that we know nothing about? We are told that our own governments are given every opportunity to oversee and scrutinise EU parliamentary legislation. In this case, HM Gov scrutinized NOTHING of the TPD. Anna Soubry MP saw to that. She dodged every piece of scrutiny. How many other ministers sneak EU legislation past parliamentary scrutiny? 

In other words, if the TPD is representative of how EU legislation works, I want none of it. No thanks. 

2: I kind of like the idea of a huge co-operative market with no tariffs and what have you. But given that accounts for way less than half of UK's exports, is it that important? And, given that Austria, Holland, France, Greece and other countries are already signaling that if the UK leaves the EU, they, also will leave, can't we negotiate another trade pact that will sort all that out? 

Of course we can. The EU has decimated our fisheries in the name of their so called single market. Let's take that back and form new, more sensible alliances. 

3: With the best will in the world, voters in other countries in the EU have their own axes to grind. They have no clue about what we in the UK need, any more than we have any clue about what they need. That 27 (at the moment) other countries can have a say in how we run this one is daft! That we can have a (highly diluted) say in how they run their is equally daft. So let's not do that, eh? 

4: Look, and this is important, I DO NOT want to be part of a European Superstate. I do not want to have the Euro as my currency. I do not want to have a European Army (Christ only knows what crackpot wars that would drag us into). I want to be able to elect a UK government that has the final say on what we, as a people, do. I do not want to have my life governed by folks whose interests are very different from my own. And I want to be able to vote out any government that makes an arse of it. That simple. In a European Superstate, we can do none of that. 

5: Some folks say that if we leave the EU, we don't really know what will happen. That's true. But if we stay in, we're not staying in for the status quo. We're going to have to accept any and every stupid idea these flick wits in Brussels come up with - and they've got some real shit in store that they've been trying to hide. So we actually don't know what will happen if we stay in. But if we LEAVE, then WE get to decide what happens - it's not imposed on us by Brussels. WE DECIDE. 

SO, in my view, it's simple. We should LEAVE and then WE DECIDE.

And please note, lest you want to tar me as racist, jingoistic and thick. I have no need to refer to immigration, emigration or any of that crap.  My five points above are enough.

UPDATE

This just came to my attention. Remainders keep touting we can "reform" the EU from inside. Apparently not... 

 

 No renegotiation, no reform, take it all, or #LEAVE

No renegotiation, no reform, take it all, or #LEAVE

It's the kidz, innit...

An interesting exchange (very friendly) on Twitter has caused me to brain dump... Sorry, but here goes... 

Ecigs, kids, nicotine... 

Apparently, kidz using Ecigs is a "bad thing™" . I know this, because people who oppose Ecigs (and generally claim to oppose smoking)  keep telling us this. They have various reasons, nearly all of which distil down to "theeenk of da cheeeeeldrens". I don't quite know what means, if I'm truthful. Indeed, I'm often prompted to think that if you DO theeeeenk too much of da cheeeeeldrens, there's a cell in Frankland Prison with your name on it.

Anyroadup, there was a study published lately (no, I don't do the link thing. Google it) that posits the notion that yoofs are quite taken by Vape tricks and hoopy technology. They kinda like the idea of blowing Os and jellyfish, and showing off their post-punk steampunk slamdunk mods. But they don't, ever, have any nicotine in their juice (which is generally as thick as a bull's lug, or an ANTZ researcher - your choice). Lemme say that again. NO NICOTINE. Zero, Nada, none, a number infinitesimally smaller than 0.00001. So, their risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, and therefore traveling the dark path towards lit tobacco is precisely, accurately and unarguably ZERO. 

And here's the thing. If they're doing tricks and blowing Os (presumably to attract the attentions of the femal of the species (other genders, it seems, are also available. I can't pretend to know them all, but I'm reliably informed that, in some corner of a snowflake's mind, they exist), then they're not smoking. You know, like we oldies used to do. Adopt James Dean pose, spark up the Marley (with a Zippo, nanchanlantly wiped across the jeans leg, or top flipped and striker struck in a single movement. I've busted more thumbnails that way...), exhale blue plume, girls come flocking. Always worked. Always. Except for the last bit. The bit about the girls. They never flocked. Unless they wanted to bum a fag off you. (Do I need to rephrase that? "Bum a fag"? Nah) 

Yes. Right. They're NOT SMOKING. And they're highly unlikely to START smoking. All the stats tell us that. Common sense tells us that. Hell, even the kidz tell us that. Anybody saying different is a disingenuous uneducated denialist trumpspunket (Did I spell that right? Maybe not). 

On Sunday night, Anne McNeil in Michael Moseley's documentary on Ecigs, said that if every adult in the UK's population took up vaping there'd still be a public health dividend. And she's not alone in saying that. John Britton's said it. So has Clive Bates. And me. Frequently. Because it's true.  Anybody saying different is a disingenuous uneducated denialist trumpspunket (Did I still not spell that right? Maybe so). 

And that's with "added nicotine™".  So WITHOUT nicotine, who actually verifiably gives a rat's nether regions? I'm "theeenking of da cheeeeeldrens ™". If they're blowing nicotine free Os, then they're not smoking, they're not trying to skateboard down an escalator handrail in King's Cross, they're not BASE jumping, they're not riding their BMX bikes off roofs, they're not doing that parcours thing and falling off The Shard, or over a three foot wall this side with a 100 foot drop on the other. 

If I may put it this way... 

RESULT! 

There's no fool like an old fool

So, ASH London is happy to throw (an underestimated by them) 9% of vapers in the UK under the bus, eh? Collateral damage. ONLY 9%.

Well, here's why they're completely barking on this point. And I'll use myself as an example, if that's OK.

When first I started vaping, exactly seven years ago today (no applause, it wasn't that hard, and I wasn't seeking to quit), I had but one aim. To be able to "smoke" where I wasn't allowed to smoke. The smoking ban not only made going out almost unbearable, but it also caused me problems in my business, which was wholly conducted in places where smoking was banned.

Now, at first, I dual used (as most people do), but, eventually, I found 24mg eliquid to bung, six drops at a time, into the god awful first generation ecigs that we're all that was available at the time.

Then I found 36mg juice. And, finally, 54mg (lychee and rose, if you must know), with which I was very, very able to cope, thank you. It made my time spent vaping roughly similar to time I'd spent smoking on a per day basis. And I smoked 60 a day. 

Fast forward to two years ago. The TPD was pretty much a done deal, so I decided, as an experiment, to attempt to become TPD compliant, as it were. That is to say using sub 20mg juice in sub 2ml tanks.  And that, dear ASH, involved sub-ohm vaping, and a completely new technique more akin to taking hits from a bong than smoking...

A total change of technique and experience. 

It didn't come easy. It took me time and a lot of experimentation, not to mention money,  to find the kit I needed to make this new transition. And now here I am. Just so ASH knows, I use:

a 200 watt capable battery device

a 5ml tank (sod that 2ml job. Life's too short to keep refilling the bloody thing after every half dozen tokes) and I'm trialing an 8ml one  

around 20ml of liquid a day (see why 20 fills a day isn't appealing, ASH?). More on some days. Like today. When there's idiocy being spouted by folks who should know better. 

On Friday, the TPD regs kick in officially. ASH has welcomed them. They're idiots. They have no idea. They seem to have payed lip service to this notion of supporting ecigs. I've even been daft enough to try to explain to folks that ASH was actually doing a good thing. 

I'm not too proud to say I've been played for a fool.  

No more. 

Corrupt cover-up confirms killing machine

While anti-smoking organisations cheer the news that the European Court of Justice has confirmed that plain packaging is lawful under the Tobacco Products Directive, vapers and vapour product vendors throughout the EU will be in mourning, as the ECJ, wrongly, in this writer's opinion, confirms that Article 20 thereof is legal and legitimate.

In its judgement, the ECJ rails against all scientific evidence and confirms that Article 20 will continue unassuaged. 

"Concerning the special rules for electronic cigarettes, which provide, inter alia, for a duty on manufacturers and importers to submit a notification to the national authorities for any product which they wish to place on the market (with a six-month standstill period), specific warnings, a maximum nicotine content of 20 mg/ml, a leaflet requirement, a separate prohibition on advertising and sponsorship and annual reporting obligations, the Court notes that electronic cigarettes display different objective characteristics from those of tobacco products. Therefore, by submitting those cigarettes to a separate legal regime which is, moreover, less strict than the one applicable to tobacco products, the EU legislature has not infringed the principle of equal treatment.

In addition, the Court points out that, taking into account the growing market for electronic cigarettes and refill containers, the national provisions governing the conditions which those products must satisfy are in themselves liable, in the absence of harmonisation at Union level, to constitute obstacles to the free movement of goods. The Court also notes that, by allowing the Member States to prohibit the cross-border distance sales of electronic cigarettes and refill containers and by imposing certain common rules on the Member States which do not prohibit those sales, the directive enables the Member States to ensure that the rules on conformity are not circumvented.

The Court points out that the identified and potential risks linked to the use of electronic cigarettes have led the EU legislature to act in a manner consistent with the requirements stemming from the precautionary principle. In that regard, submitting electronic cigarettes to a notification scheme does not seem manifestly inappropriate or manifestly beyond what is necessary to attain the objective pursued by the EU legislature. In addition, the Court rejects the argument that the obligation on manufacturers and importers of electronic cigarettes and refill containers to submit each year, to the competent authorities of the Member States, certain data enabling those authorities to monitor the development of the market infringes the principles of proportionality and legal certainty. Similarly, by fixing the maximum nicotine yield which may be contained in the liquid of electronic cigarettes at 20 mg/ml, the legislature has not acted arbitrarily or manifestly exceeded the limits of what was appropriate and necessary in order to achieve the objective pursued by the directive."

Thus, nothing changes in regard to the implementation of the TPD throughout the EU. Taken alongside very recent changes to cross-border sales rules, which make it all but impossible for vendors to trade internationally without jumping through extremely onerous hoops, and at massive costs (registration of both the business and products in foreign member states - wither "harmonisation"?) the legitimate market in ecigarettes is about to take a massive fall. By May 2017 how many legitimate ecig businesses will there be? 

One thing is for sure. There will be a massive and complex black market operating. While we, in the UK, will, no doubt, "get by" - by virtue of the least onerous implementation of an extremely bad law - will Vapers in the rest of the EU be able to take advantage of that and purchase "legitimate" product from us, while we also operate a huge black market in over-strength nicotine containing eliquids? 

This judgement, and the TPD in general, pretty much ensures that folks will now seek to import 99.9% pure nicotine from the orient. That will not be safe. It probably won't be 99.9% pure, either. Lord only knows how many folks, once all has come to all, will simply shrug and toddle off to the corner shop to buy drab packaged tobacco Ecigs as they discover that their needs cannot be met legitimately. 

In all, then, a disappointing day. I look forward to seeing responses to the judgement from ASH, CRUK, RCP, PHE, Fresh and their colleagues, alongside other outwardly supportive organizations. Their take on it will inform my opinions going forward. 

Pissed off? You bet I am. 

Surprised? No, not really.

Money talks. 

What grandkids could teach Public Health

I just sat and read 38 pages of a wordy tome emanating from ASH about the "Smoking problem" in Mental Health. Disclaimer: I am, by nature, a libertarian. That, basically, means I don't give a rat's ass what you do to yourself. It's none of my business. It's not that I don't care about you - quite the reverse, I care so much that I acknowledge all of your fundamental freedoms, and I have no intention of trying to take any away from you. Just so you know. I may not agree with what you do to, for, or by yourself, but I'd defend your right to do it. That kind of thing. 

SO, yes, anyway, I read this wordy tome. And it during the read-through, all I could see was "actually we really don't like what these patients are doing, and we really think we need to do something, because, well, it's not right, is it? I mean, look, they're doing these things and we reckon it can't be healthy, so, well, basically, we need to harangue these poor buggers and get them to agree that they're being naughty and get them to stop". 

But here's the thing. These people, bottom line, want to use nicotine. The feel they get a benefit from so doing. What gets right up the backs of the do-gooders is that they light tobacco to do it. And that, of course, will never do. So they come up with all these ambitions and methods and strategies and other buzzwords to get folks to stop doing it. 

I've got a three year old grandson - and a one year old. They both, very often, do things I'm not massively fond of. They're children. It's what they do. So what do I do? I give them something more enjoyable to do. Not because I'm a wonderful and kind grandfather (I am, but that's beside the point), but because I don't want to be annoyed by them annoying me by being bloody annoying, frankly. If I can find something they enjoy more, which doesn't annoy me, then it's a win-win. What I don't do is refer them to an outside agency whose tactics I may not approve of or enjoy, and get them to come in, assess the situation (which will annoy the grandkids and make them act out), and then formulate an ongoing remedial strategy, based on methodologies that have been subject to randomised controlled trials carried out by people who, too, are annoyed by children being, well, children.

No - bugger that. I give the grandkids something they enjoy more to do. 

So, here we have it. Folks want to use nicotine. These folks have other, I think more pressing issues. So, can we find other ways for them to use nicotine that won't annoy the do-gooders?  See, I think we can, and it doesn't need expensive outside agencies. I feel a list coming on.

Hang on.


Here it is: (just like on Strictly Come Dancing, in no particular order)

Snus - have a quick squint at Sweden. The Swedes seem to like Snus. They've got very low smoking rates. That's one. Nothing annoying about that. 

Heat Not Burn tobacco-containing novel tobacco products. They look promising - and, on that sliding scale of risk, a long way closer to the nirvana of "Zero Risk" than what, we are told, the risk from lit tobacco is. (By the way, that "we are told" bit is important. It implies I don't buy it 100%. Just so you know)  So, HnB - nothing annoying about that - unless you're tilting at the Tobacco Company windmills, of course. But sensible people have already acknowledged you should look at the product, not the producer.

Ecigs - Well, hell, these things are about the safest widely acceptable (to the user) alternative way to get nicotine there is. Want a cool flavour? Yup! It's there. Want wispy little plumelets  of barely noticeable vapour. Yip, you can do that. Want huge billowing clouds of dense, flavourful vaper you can almost chew? Yeah, yeah - no bother. That's there. (Might be a bit annoying for serial whingers, but those folks get annoyed by everything, so they really don't count). Bottom line? Safe as houses, as long as you understand that houses are not 100% safe - otherwise we wouldn't need house and contents insurance, would we?

Other nicotine containing products - there's a fair old selection, really, some of which are so-called "licensed medicines"  (they're not really medicines - they don't cure anything, no matter what we've been told) and some of which fly under the radar a bit - like those Nicoccino thingies. They all work to some degree, but you've got to admit, the licensed varieties are, generally speaking, boring, unexciting, and have this horrible habit of making you feel like you're a patient. If you're in the group we're taking about here, you probably don't really want reminding. Or made to feel like a tit. (Disclaimer. I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. So that bit about wanting to be reminded might be wrong. Or it might not.)

If, then, those lovely folks in Public Health and the various different alphabet organisations actually sat down and thought about it for a few minutes, and then borrowed some grandkids (if they haven't got their own) , they might work it out. My grandkids don't annoy me much these days. Whenever they arrive (and believe me, they arrive a lot) they look for the more enjoyable stuff I've sorted out for them to do/play with/watch/listen to/dig up/break/sleep on and having found the one they like most (and it's quite often two different things, because they like different things) they do that.

So, all they really need to do is make sure that nothing gets in the way of the things on my list - make them not only available everywhere, but also make sure that they can be used - enjoyed even - in as many places as possible. Make sure nobody makes the mistake of preventing their use, either, cos that would be annoying. And, if it's needed, make sure that folks who might otherwise have a bit of difficulty finding out how to use them have access to someone who can help them find the thing that makes them go "ooh!" 

And, you know what, I reckon that would make the world a happier place. And, as a by-product, more productive and more useful. (That's a veiled dig, by the way. Just so you know). 

Oh - and a shed load cheaper than funding interminable studies to tell you exactly what I've written here today. Worth noting, I think. Of course, that would mean some folks would be out of a job - but isn't that their ultimate aim anyway? If it's not, it bloody well should be.