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Tuesday
Jul142015

From zero to heroes? The uncomfortable truth about some e-cig advocates

I've resisted writing about this subject for several months but the temptation finally proved too great.

Two things pushed me over the edge.

First, discussing e-cigarettes, someone said to me, "ASH is a more credible advocate than Forest."

His point was, if an anti-smoking group is prepared to defend and even advocate the use of e-cigs that has to be good, right?

Forest, on the other hand, will forever be associated with tobacco and all its ills.

I understand the argument but I'm not sure I agree with it. Does a proud and consistent commitment to freedom of choice, personal responsibility and fact-based evidence count for nothing these days?

Contrast that with the woeful record of ASH and many other tobacco control groups.

Yes, I welcome the fact that some public health campaigners are embracing e-cigs. I'm happy too that the tobacco control industry is increasingly split on the issue and some now see their colleagues (or former colleagues) in a new light.

Suddenly though we're supposed to forget that the same public health campaigners who currently defend e-cigarettes are often the same people who for years fought tobacco using the same dodgy research and twisted rhetoric they now accuse others of in relation to vaping.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

The smoking ban, let us never forget, was introduced in Britain on the back of the absurd and unfounded claim that 11,000 non-smokers were dying every year from 'passive' smoking.

There was never a hint of hard evidence to support this extremely damaging allegation. Of the four or five cases that went to court, no employee ever convinced a judge they were victims of environmental tobacco smoke.

When the definitive Enstrom Kabat study was published in 2003 (verdict: the link between ETS and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed, although a small effect cannot be ruled out), anti-smoking lobbyists like ASH pounced on the researchers who were vilified horribly for their dedicated, diligent work.

More recently it was suggested by ASH and others that smoking costs society £13 billion a year. I think that's the figure. It hardly matters. It bears little or no relation to reality but it's important to anti-smoking campaigners because it exceeds the £10 billion that smokers pay the Treasury each year in tobacco taxation and it allows anti-tobacco groups to argue that smokers are a net cost to society when the opposite is true.

Someone should write a book on the subject of smoking and manufactured evidence but in the absence of a definitive account I recommend Joe Jackson's illuminating essay Truth, Lies and the Nanny State (2007).

Clive Bates, the former director of ASH who is now a leading advocate of e-cigarettes, was at the forefront of the war on tobacco in Britain for several years. Having encouraged what I believe were unwarranted fears about passive smoking, Clive is now a hero of the vaping community thanks to his eloquent and powerful advocacy of electronic cigarettes which is driven, I believe, by the experience of his brother, a former smoker who used e-cigs to quit.

Professor Linda Bauld, another prominent anti-tobacco campaigner, was the author of an astonishingly blinkered review of the impact of the smoking ban. Her highly selective report was brilliantly critiqued in The Bauld Truth which should have won a Plain English Campaign award. Despite that, Linda is also a darling of the e-cig movement which has embraced her as one of their own.

The most recent anti-smoking campaigner to be put on a pedestal is Deborah Arnott, the current CEO of ASH. Arnott has made it her mission to reduce smokers to a rump – five per cent – of the population within 20 years. As we know, the only way that can be achieved is by denormalising the current 20 per cent, pricing tobacco out of many people's reach, and restricting areas where smokers can light up to a handful of public or private spaces.

She too became a favourite of the e-cig brigade following this recent outburst:

"There are people in the public health community who are obsessed by e-cigarettes. This idea that it renormalizes smoking is absolute bullshit. There is no evidence so far that it is a gateway into smoking for young people."

Overnight a woman who looks like she swallowed a wasp while sucking on a lemon (even when she's happy) went from zero to hero. You've got to laugh but there's a serious point to all this.

Few if any of these public health campaigners turned e-cig advocates believe in choice. Some have a genuine commitment to harm reduction which I respect. What I don't respect is their determination, by whatever means, to stop people smoking.

Their philosophy is that people must be 'encouraged', one way or another, to quit. In their world few people smoke because they want to and most want to quit so society must 'help' them. E-cigarettes are tolerated not as a pleasure in their own right but as a means to an end – the end of smoking.

The likes of ASH criticise, quite rightly, some of the more dubious studies about e-cigarettes, pointing out the flaws in methodology, sample size etc etc.

Likewise they are happy to go to war when the results of a fairly innocuous study will be twisted out of all recognition in an attempt to scaremonger the public about the alleged risks of vaping.

But it never seems to occur to them that many smoking-related studies suffer from exactly the same issues. Or if it does they're keeping very quiet about it.

I suspect one or two know but they're reluctant to address this inconvenient truth. Here for example is a recent exchange between Clive Bates and nisakiman (an occasional commenter here) on Clive's blog, The Counterfactual:

I don’t know why you express surprise or exasperation at the refusal of the medical profession to admit to the facts [about e-cigarettes], Clive. This isn’t about health, it’s about ideology, and has been since the ‘Godber Blueprint’ took shape.

After all, you yourself took part in leading the charge regarding the completely unsubstantiated myth of ‘Second-Hand Smoke’, which has had a devastating effect on the lives of millions of decent people and the businesses which catered to them. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs and businesses in UK alone, and for absolutely no health gain.

And as for the social costs, they have been horrendous. A wedge has been driven into the heart of communities; bigotry and discrimination are officially sanctioned and hatred and contempt are encouraged; children are being used as political tools to divide families and ever more restrictive and illiberal laws are being passed.

We are now told that the greatest health problem the elderly face is loneliness – a direct consequence of driving out of business the majority of social venues like bingo halls, working men’s clubs, pubs etc etc where the elderly would go to socialise. And all to further the warped ideological agenda of a small coterie of zealots.

I shudder to think what damage this falsehood of the ‘dangers’ of SHS has done to the economy worldwide, with the bans and restrictions that have been enacted as a result of the FCTC’s rulings. And you were part of it, Clive, so spare us the crocodile tears for the trials and tribulations that e-cigs are suffering at the hands of Tobacco Control now. You helped create this monster, this poisonous ideology. Now you must learn to live with it.

In response Clive wrote:

Hi – grumpy rejoinders always welcome here! But sadly I’ve no time to spend on arguing about these issues – though I’m sympathetic to some of what you say. I’d rather focus on what little I can do in the limited time I have – in my case that means promoting low-risk alternatives to smoking as an option for smokers, or what some call 'tobacco harm reduction' as a public health strategy.

"Public health" is not one thing and never has been. There are many different perspectives in the people who work in this area and they change over time – sometimes in response to evidence.

So Clive is "sympathetic" but has "no time to spend on arguing about these issues". How wonderfully convenient!

Truth is, any sympathy Clive might have is worthless because he fully supports the comprehensive smoking ban and, I am sure, every single piece of anti-smoking legislation that has been introduced over the past 15 years.

The same, with nobs on, applies to every anti-smoking lobbyist turned e-cig advocate – Linda Bauld, Professor Robert West ... Lovely people, some of them, but every single one shares responsibility for the intolerant anti-tobacco environment that has been manufactured in this country.

Yes, manufactured. There was no strong public demand for a comprehensive smoking ban. Even now a majority of adults would happily allow designated smoking rooms in pubs and private members' clubs.

Inevitably, because so few non-smokers are now exposed to tobacco smoke in public or in private, the issue for many is no longer about health, it's about smell. Incredibly smokers must be driven even further into the shadows because in today's sanitised world some people can't tolerate even the briefest exposure to the smell of tobacco smoke.

Alternatively we're told that the mere sight of a stranger smoking in a public park could encourage a toddler or teenager to take up smoking. It could, I suppose, but where's the evidence that it does?

Significantly I have yet to hear a single anti-tobacco crusader turned e-cig advocate argue against a ban on smoking in outdoor public areas despite the fact that vaping is equally vulnerable to further restrictions on 'smoking' in public.

It suggests to me that the greater goal is still to stop people smoking and if vapers get caught in the crossfire so be it.

The final straw – which prompted me to revise and publish this post – was an article by smoking cessation worker Louise Ross.

What does 'ecig-friendly' really mean? asked Ross who proudly describes herself as "anti-tobacco" on her Twitter profile. Writing on Clive Bates' blog, she explained:

For me, it is welcoming people who want to stop smoking, and who might want to use an ecig to do that. They may have lots of questions, and we shouldn’t pretend to know anything that we really don’t, so being ecig-friendly can mean admitting your limits and signposting people to other sources of information, like vaping groups, sympathetic retailers who want to help, or the New Nicotine Alliance, a charity that educates and advocates for vapers.

It’s also being prepared to seek help ourselves, and educating ourselves, with a sense of diligent enquiry, about issues that are at times incredibly complex and confusing, but being prepared to put some work in and remain open-minded.

It means having the courage to take some risks, to stand up for the rights of people to be heard and to have their experiences accepted as valid, despite the crushing weight of disapproval from a hostile sector of ‘experts’.

It means developing a team of people who chat to vapers in social settings, always keen to learn more about choices, flavours, health changes, problem-solving.

It means remembering that as stop smoking teams, we have heaps of experience helping people to stop smoking – we know how to make it more likely they will succeed, by changing routines, by building motivation, and by showing that we really care about the outcome. We’ve made this same journey with so many diverse people who aspire to no longer smoke, and we often know many more choices than people are aware of, such as different ways of using nicotine replacement therapy, which appears to work rather well with ecigs.

Recently I’ve thought of the advisor/service user relationship more like a coach with a sportsman or woman in training – the coach is there to help set goals, to improve performance, to urge on, to get the person back on track when they despair. Mostly though, a coach can see the desire for success in their trainee’s eyes, and they don’t deter them or send them away saying they can’t help them.

An ecig-friendly stop smoking team will welcome anyone who wants to stop smoking, and they will work with them, listen to them, encourage them, and respect them. It’s the way of the future.

It's pretty clear, reading Ross' post, that 'e-cig friendly' and 'stop smoking' are one and the same thing whereas to me 'e-cig friendly' means being tolerant of those who want to vape, in the same way I'm tolerant of those who choose to smoke.

Sadly tolerance and choice have long since disappeared from the anti-smokers' vocabulary and if Clive, Linda and Louise have one thing in common it's this – they're all fully paid up members of the tobacco control industry.

As for standing up for the rights of people to be heard and to have their experiences accepted as valid, despite the crushing weight of disapproval from a hostile sector of 'experts', that's precisely what Forest has been doing for 36 years.

And at the forefront of that hostile sector of 'experts'? Why, tobacco control campaigners like Clive Bates, Linda Bauld and, er, Louise Ross!

Update: Smoke Free North East (Fresh) has just tweeted:

To which Clive has replied:

We need to see others like @FreshSmokeFree grasping the health opportunities of #vaping - so glad they speaking up.

 Hugs all round! x

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Reader Comments (29)

As I begin to see new anti-smoker signs going up with a new hazard warning also banning ecigs, I know it is only because smoking is banned that vaping is banned and I am ever more convinced that to win the ecig fight these so called "vapers" must first fight for smoking but they won't.

They will ultimately lose us the fight and have no one left to defend them when the tables turn and they will.

Like you, I prefer tolerance of all things but some eciggers' rabid anti-smoker views are turning me rabidly anti-vaping to the point of campaigning against these dangerous things.

I am not convinced that these chemical-laden, exploding gimmicks are really a healthier alternative at all except in the imagination of those terrified by a wisp of smoke and too stupid to see through the junk science that supports the ideological war on tobacco companies.

Bates, Arnott, and the other smokerphobic lobbyists support ecigs because they recognise the divide and conquer value of them but none of these people can be trusted. We know they lie for their living.

Vapers are not our friends. Never have been and never will be because they depend on abusing, humiliating and attacking us to win favour for their product of choice.

I know why Forest supports these people but they will use you, abuse you, and then spit you out when it suits them.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 13:26 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

The few tobacco controllers that support vaping as a harm reduction strategy likely do so in the spirit of divide and conquer. Once they split vapers from smokers they will circle the wagons and eradicate vaping too.

The tobacco control movement is indeed an ideology built on a fragile scientific foundation, The evidence of second hand smoke risk is extremely weak and likely near zero. The second hand smoke myth was constructed as ab indirect attack on smokers.

The only path forward is to actively work to expose tobacco control lies and work toward amending and then reversing coming bans. The pub ban must be amended to allow separate smoking rooms and/or facilities. The outdoor bans must be stopped and reversed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 17:13 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

I for one don't regard many members of the Anti Tobacco Industry as allies in the battle to stop ecigs being regulated out of existence. For example, ASH UK welcomed the EU Tobacco Products Directive which, next May, will do just that. ASH can now say want it wants. Recognising it is on the losing side, scientifically and morally, it is not surprising it chooses to appear as if it is siding with vapers. As you say, many vapers, who were too young or disinterested to understand the issues behind the smoking ban, are taken in by this.

The facts remain. From May 2016, eliquid above 20mg/ml in strength will be banned; containers of eliquid for sale cannot exceed 10ml; ecig tanks cannot exceed 2ml and quite possibly, all current refillable devices will be banned due to "leakage issues". This is effectively a ban on cheap and effective vaping and will result in a dangerous and chaotic black market. Of course the Anti Tobacco Industry will argue that ecigs have not been banned - very expensive sealed cartridges will still be available. Expensive as in £60 a week, rather than the £1.50 or so my home mixing vaping costs me.

Many of us are well aware that passive smoking is a fraud - not least because those who used it to justify the smoking ban now admit as much. But if members of the Anti Tobacco Industry are a help in preventing an indoor ecig ban, whatever their motives, that's fine by me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 17:14 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

I resent the assumption that politicians and health dictators think that I would like to be like them,because I do not and will not.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 18:19 | Unregistered Commentergray

I'm a vaper and vaping advocate partly because it's given me something better (and almost certainly far safer) than smoking cigarettes. As soon as I experimented with a refillable tank system my 30-year 20-a-day habit dwindled, for the past six months has been gone completely.

However, I continue to detest and oppose the smoking ban (and all other anti-smoking legislation apart from age restrictions), as do such principled vaping enthusiasts as Christopher Snowdon and Dick Puddlecote.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 20:36 | Unregistered CommenterKen MacLeod

Of course some in the anti-smoking movement support e-cigs. They’re the ones who have realised that there are some people around who, even with all the pressure to give up real smoking, still want to enjoy an activity which mirrors it very closely, and they’re only too aware that once all the new regs come into force and e-cigs become (a) very expensive and (b) so lily-livered as to not be enjoyable any more, there’s a very high chance that a significant number of those people will switch back to real smoking again. Not all, of course, but I’ll wager that quite a lot will. Why pay a fortune for something which is no longer enjoyable as a substitute “smoke” any more? Might as well just buy a black marker pen and pretend to puff away on that! So, many will return to smoking again. And, of course, more people smoking ensures the continued existence (and funding) of Tobacco Control in all its forms …

I don’t put anything past these people. The ones who support e-cigs simply have better forward vision than the ones who don’t.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 1:08 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Vapers are not the enemy of smokers, in fact a vast number of us have been working very hard to expose the lies of SHS and the ridiculous THS nonsense. The difference with vapers is that we support each other, we are active on social media, we get in and do the work, we write submissions, we contact politicians and get our voice heard. We support financially those that have been persecuted, we support each other on forums, in person, across the globe.

Not only do individual vapers support each other, but the manufacturers and vendors also support vapers, and not just with words.

I smoked for more than 20 years, never once was I offered support from other smokers to defy a ban, I never saw a smoker actively try and expose the tobacco control lies, (I'm talking ordinary smokers, not organisations, although in my country smoker organisations don't exist, or are invisible). I saw apathy and defeatism, a victim mentality, and a self hatred from a lot of smokers, because they were sucked into believing the lies of tobacco control, took on the label of "addict", or simply lacked the motivation to fight the tax hikes and bans, and with no support from either other smokers, or from any of the tobacco companies, (which have consistently ignored their customers), who can blame them, not me.

Now I'm no longer a smoker, they are wanting me to fight their battles?? While I'm more than happy to speak up for the right of people to make their own choices in life, whether that's smoking, vaping, drinking, whatever, I'm not going to put my heart, soul, and money into a lost cause.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 1:24 | Unregistered CommenterJude

Jonathan Bagley. I'l fight tooth and nail against ecigs being allowed to be smoked indoors because I will not fight for myself as a smoker to become a third class citizen. Fight for the right to smoke indoors and the right to vape indoors is no contest.
Without a smoking ban there'd be no vaping ban - that's the bottom line but I won't fight for vapers to be included while at the same time fight for myself to be further excluded.

Smokers do support each other Jude - or used to before some turned to vaping and switched sides in the belief that they'll become accepted members of their communities again and then began to attack us as well thinking that as turncoats the anti smoker industry would support them in their use of their new found toy.

Some of those smoker activists used to bang on about the twisted science behind smoking and health being a fraud and now suddenly use the propaganda against smoking to promote the idea that ecigs are safer crap or the fraudulent "Ecigs save lives" rubbish.

It doesn't help us when you lot use our name to support your choice such as the whine that "smokers will have no choice but to keep smoking without ecigs."

Not true. There are many methods we can have IF we choose to quit and we don't. You cannot speak for smokers or use our name in vain because - as you keep telling us - you are no longer smokers yourselves so stop using us to win more ground. We are fed up of it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 14:16 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Yes, uncomfortable right enough - this is an issue that needs sorting. What we have are two sides of a single argument. I suggest that the 'powers' - those at the forefront of this particular aspect of the debate get together and bang their collective heads together, HARD - or we are lost

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 19:53 | Unregistered Commenterrobert innes

We HAVE to remember that we are former smokers. Remember that feeling of being ostracised, and this post, however uncomfortable, is from a battler who never gave in - and remember that the evidence for the harm from secondhand smoke is very weak indeed, in fact non-existent. Do we shove these people into the sidelines or hold them up as heroes (As they deserve) Do we reject them because they might threaten our cause? do we give into the same fear we gave into before. I suggest that the 'powers' - those at the forefront of this particular aspect of the debate get together and bang their collective heads together, HARD - or we are lost.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 20:27 | Unregistered Commenterrobert innes

Well Jude, you say smokers haven't been fighting, uniting, employing solidarity because you haven't seen any websites regarding such actions. Try http://www.justice4smokers.co.uk/ for starters gal! We have people who have been fighting the inexorable lunacy of the anti-smoking brigade for years & years but none of us have the power nor the money to combat the crap that emanates from the likes of ASH.
When that lying piece of so called feminimity known as Linda Bauld created (I won't say wrote) the SBR (smoke ban review) it took me a mere day to totally rubbish the entire report, simply because it was page after page of lies, references to her own work and to ASH statements. I also sent my report on HER report to many MPs but all to no avail-Stirling University wordage was sacrosanct!
What you totally fail to see is that vapers have crucified smokers and are now being crucified themselves as they "look like they are smoking" and as we all know Jude, this smoking ban has absolutely NOTHING to do with health: this is a war (by the corrupt & unelected WHO) to rid the world of a totally legal product - the tobacco plant! Thank you Sir George Edward Godber for sowing the seeds in the minds of of the tobacco haters. But do note that cancer cases are still rising!
Whatever happens to vapers now is no longer of any concern of smokers as the likes of Wetherspoons & Sam Smiths have now banned 'vaping' in their pubs and more will probably follow as the tobacco lobby are now all powerful. The lies have been drip-fed to the generally pubic, so much so that many non interested people now fully believe that the merest wisp of smoke will literally strangle them. So, Jude, don't sit there procrastinating about lack of fighting power & weak kneed smokers just because many of them simply stick 2 fingers up at the pubs and now enjoy smokey/drinky's at home or friends houses-that is why so many pubs (15,000+) have now closed!
As a proof tester I offered to build two identical pubs within 50 yards of each other - one smoking and the other smoke free: I was refused one of them, guess which one!
No individuals can out-cost a government or a charity fed with government funding, especially when it funds that charity to assist in creating an ideology-which of course will never happen!
I suggest Jude, that if you have plenty of fight left in you I suggest you join the above organisation where your support & skills will be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 21:35 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Johnson

Ongoing conversation on vapers network... my comment... I do so much struggle with this issue... but so do so many... now is the time for objective thinking.. it is vital for all of us. Time for ego to take a back seat. Me, you, Clive, Louise, We should stop looking back, BUT, we also appreciate the ones who never left... We should also appreciate so much those who have seen that millions will not suffer and have joined the fight but they must never eclipse those who stayed the race I thank those who had the courage to change and I thank those who never changed - NOW,those at the forefront of this particular aspect of the debate get together and bang your collective heads together, HARD - or we are lost

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 21:50 | Unregistered Commenterrobert innes

Why is it that some (not all) e-cig advocates only support their form of harm reduction instead of seeking out all of the possibilities (ie., for those smokers who would like to practice THR beyond what e-cigs have to offer)? When I have attempted to bring up the value and potential of vaporized tobacco in many discussions (on various vapor forums) I have either been totally ignored or condemned for even bringing up the fact that tobacco has a role to play in THR. This baffles me to no end. Where is the consistency?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 22:15 | Unregistered Commenterjredheadgirl

Excellent piece Simon - about time it was said.

I wrote this in 2013.

We can NOT slag off smokers and smoking. If we do this we are strengthening the perception that has been dripped into the societal mind that Smoking is evil and we are collaborating with our own enemy!

In 2014

In the UK - in fact all over the world, the case for vaping is being waged by standing on the heads of smokers.

I am a great admirer of Henry David Thoreau. He said in Civil Disobedience - "If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself."

I believe we cannot get justice for vapers until smokers are treated with respect. We can only change vaper-hate by releasing society from their shriveled smoker-hate existence. Now is the time for all anti smoking activists to set themselves free from the dogma and creed they have placed in "Public Health". May enlightenment come upon you. Awaken! May the smoking bans be reviewed with moral honesty. The deceit you offered is now being used against vapers. It is YOUR faults! The REAL PROBLEM for everyone is the attitude to SMOKING.

In fact, I have slogged on with similar posts for years!

You once called me a Clive Bates "worshipper" - I was extremely annoyed by your assertion. I AM THE ONE who has been warning of our problem - to him - and in my blogs eternally! I am NOT a voice crying in the wilderness though, and I carry on because thousands read my blog - and I should think they are vapers. Who else would read a pro smoking blog called "Vapingpoint".

Smokers do have friends in the vaping community.

The last point is that the lies and twisted science being used against vapers is exposing so clearly the machinations of Anti-tobacco and illuminating vapers (and smokers) to the sheer evil they will stoop to against vaping - and by extrapolation, that they have done the same to smokers in the past. They are not "experts", they are showing themselves to be fools and baffoons.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 23:09 | Unregistered CommenterVapingpoint

Well Phil, I don't live in the UK so it would be no point me joining a UK smokers organisation. There are no such organisations speaking up for smokers in my country, despite the fact that there are millions of smokers here.

Which is rather my point, where are all the smokers sticking up for each other, supporting each other? Pat is wrong to say smokers supported each other, they have not, nor have they had the support of the companies whose products they purchase at a very high price. Tobacco companies have no problem coming up with the money to fight the "propaganda packaging" and challenge this policy in the court, but this does not help smokers fight the bans indoors or outdoors.

You are right Phil, no individuals can fight the government, they simply don't have the means, and many don't have the knowledge or the motivation to do so, so where is the tobacco company support??

Vaping for me is a low cost alternative to smoking, as tobacco is extremely expensive in my country, due to excessive "sin" taxes, and one I've come to enjoy far more than smoking. Its something I enjoy, its not my life, so for me fighting for the right to vape, or smoke (if that's your choice), is about personal freedom. The fact that vaping is a safer alternative to smoking, is just a bonus.

Personally, I think the puritans and ANTZ will get their marching orders soon, but to break the strangle hold smokers will need to be a far more united force than they currently are. They will need to actually put in some work if they want their voices heard by the general public. Its pointless spending your time slagging off vapers, better to spend it supporting other smokers, and fighting your real enemies.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 23:15 | Unregistered CommenterJude

Bravo, well said, I couldn't agree more!

Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 1:17 | Unregistered CommenterUma

This is an interesting article coming from a clear standpoint of anti tobacco control which is fine. Civil liberties & freedoms etc are a valid argument. For me, I vape as a hobbyist and am very keen to get a detachment from smoking. I think the e-cigarette label is the worst thing that happened to vaping. But I do recognise smoking is where we all came from.
I also recognise harm reduction as a valid strategy but not necessarily in the draconian way of bans etc. I advocate vaping as the safer, cheaper option to smoking which offers greater choice. I am all for 'encouraging' harm reduction but recognise that if people want to smoke they will smoke. How far 'encouragement' goes appears to be the moot point here. When does a policy of harm reduction 'encouragement' start impinging on civil liberties?
Working around alcohol harm we have the same difficulties. There's no right answer, just strategies that will be viewed as either heavy handed or too light. It's kind of a no win situation. And whilst I find Simon's 'angle' on e-cig advocates' histories factually interesting and a valid point of view, going forward I am more interested in the support of the named e-cig advocates to educate and support the agenda to recognise that vaping is socially acceptable (whatever the hell that means). They have the connections and the influence that we, as 'ordinary' citizens don't have and can help us get vaping recognised in its own right.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 9:05 | Unregistered CommenterDom Flint

Dear Liz (Vapingpoint), with hindsight I was wrong to suggest you were a Clive Bates' "worshipper". I took one blog post out of context. At the time however I felt too many articles about vaping were being posted on the Forest FB page (it is after all a smokers' group) and a piece praising one of the architects of the smoking ban raised my hackles. Since then I've read many of your posts and I realise our positions are very similar so thank you for your comments and your support.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 9:23 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Simon,
It is good that you decided to write this, even though it is a difficult challenge to take on. I often have a similar thought, and (very) occasionally step up and write about it. My angle tends to be "why do we place more epistemic faith in people who were wrong for years and then finally changed their mind than we do in the people who were right all along?" I read your focus as being more about freedom than accuracy, but it certainly has elements of both.

I will offer an extension, which I suspect you agree with, that most of the anti-smoking crusaders who have embraced ecigs, do not really believe in harm reduction. Harm reduction is a philosophy that is as much about empowerment and choice as it is about the simplistic literal interpretation of the phrase. The attitude that ecigs (or whatever) are good because they are, in effect, a good medicine to push on people is not a belief in harm reduction. It is just a different version of control. As a result, it is no surprise that those who tout it do not actually believe in the empowerment and choice that you advocate for -- they are not really harm reduction advocates.

I will also add that the case becomes even clearer when you extend it beyond the Brits you are focused on. Once you extend the analysis beyond the Fourth Reich, to consider the saner world where smokeless tobacco (ST) is not banned, you find ecig advocates who not only embrace anti-smoking rules and junk science, but embrace anti-ST. Clearly they are motivated not by harm reduction, nor even the rump "harm reduction" of just wanting to push people to reduce risk, but rather some bizarre ideology that is not influenced by a consistent political philosophy or by science. Once you have that, behavior is pretty much random.

For the record, I would suggest that Bates has genuinely evolved his views and does not support anti-smoking junk science anymore either. (Disclosure: he is a CASAA advisor (as is one of the others who you mentioned by name), a frequent collaborator, and personal friend.) I think the conversation he chose not to pursue that you cite is a bit of a strawman -- we all have to take a pass on most such, after all.

I definitely agree with Jude's assessment that part of reason for this is that smokers (mostly) do not advocate for themselves while vapers vehemently have done so for the last six years. (And industry plays a role in that. The classic observation about the cigarette industry -- from within the industry itself -- is that their relationship with their customers was, until recently, "raise the price they are charged twice a year, and meet them in court when they get cancer".) This alone does not cause the unwillingness to recognize common causes, of course, but it smoothes the way for that failure for obvious reasons.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 12:56 | Unregistered CommenterCarl V Phillips

What new light Simon? As far as I can see, the pro-vaping advocates in TC are almost 100% committed to further eroding my and other smokers's freedoms. Exceptions, perhaps, include those who realise that calls for outdoor bans will further undermine public trust in what most assume is a worthy cause. Nothing to do with respecting the rights of smokers, simply that they don't want the apple cart/gravy train upset by the ultra freaks and useful idiots.

Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 14:58 | Unregistered Commenterdavid

@ Carl Phillips

The argument may seem 'strawman' to you, Carl, aloof in your cosy sinecure, but to the thousands upon thousands who lost their jobs, businesses and homes as a result of the lies (and I use that word unapologetically, because lies they were) of Tobacco Control, of which both you and Clive were a part, the argument is far from 'strawman'. You are basically doing exactly what Simon points out about Clive's reaction:

So Clive is "sympathetic" but has "no time to spend on arguing about these issues". How wonderfully convenient!

You and Clive both stood applauding enthusiastically as the ribbon was cut at the grand opening of this particular Pandora's Box, and having seen what devastation it has wrought, now seek to salve your consciences by supporting e-cigs. Too little, too late, alas. The genie (to mix my metaphors) is well and truly out of the bottle. The heavy, dead hand of Tobacco Control will do all it can to crush e-cigs, as they pose a real threat the the hegemony of the zealots and ideologues who populate it.

Much as I appreciate your support of vaping, which at least shows that you still have a shred of humanity, that doesn't excuse either of you from perpetrating a lie that has had a massive social and financial impact on millions of people. Both you and Clive know that the SHS lie was just a means to an ideological end, and you should both be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves for the misery that continues to be visited on the world by the warped ideology that you espoused.

The reason that vapers are organised (sort of) in the defence of their preferred indulgence is because it is new. The converts tend to be evangelical about it and the purveyors of accessories scrabble for their share of the market; so of course, in this age of the internet, they have found it easy to form communities and advocate. Tobacco, on the other hand, has been around for time immemorial, so there is no immediate structure to look to. The tobacco companies, as you rightly point out, have no interest in their customers, and so don't serve as a rallying point. I suspect that if (when) alcohol becomes as demonised as tobacco, and some bright spark comes up with a theoretically less harmful version that catches on, you would see exactly the same effect. The new kids on the block will be organised and adversarial while the traditional consumers will be disparate and have nowhere to turn for support. It is unsurprising and has nothing to do with a lack of will on the part of smokers to defend themselves.

I'm sure you will dismiss this comment, just as you dismissed out of hand the comment I left on Clive's blog. You will do so secure in the knowledge that you, having studied for years at some Ivy League institution, cannot be questioned or criticised by some oik that left school at sixteen and eschewed further education. But what I may lack in eloquence, I make up for in passion. And I am passionate about my freedom to make my own choices without some overeducated academic hubristically presuming to know better than I do what is best for me. And I will continue to be passionate about my freedom until I shuffle off this mortal coil (which as things stand looks to be a good few years yet, despite [or perhaps because of] my fifty plus years of smoking).

Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 23:07 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

nisakiman, I must come to Carl's defence because, to the best of my knowledge, he is not and never has been part of the tobacco control industry. He advocates the use of e-cigarettes but in my experience has never turned his back on smokers. Without question, Carl is one of the good guys.

Friday, July 17, 2015 at 0:30 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

In that case, my apologies both to him and yourself, Simon. My understanding was that he had a career in Public Health and was associated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, both rabidly anti-smoking organisations. The assumption was that he was, like Clive, a fairly recent convert to THR.

Friday, July 17, 2015 at 8:06 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

I don't know Carl well but I think you must be confusing him with someone else. There is a long entry about him on the Tobacco Tactics website (which targets outspoken critics of the tobacco control industry) and there is no mention of him being associated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation or any other anti-smoking organisation. As I say, Carl is one of the good guys.

Friday, July 17, 2015 at 8:31 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Gee, and you wonder why serious and effective people don't like to bother with smokers' rights?

Friday, July 17, 2015 at 13:26 | Unregistered CommenterCarl V Phillips

That's a bit unfair, Carl! Nisakiman was wrong to target you for personal criticism but the passion, anger and frustration he feels as a smoker is no different to the passion, anger and frustration felt (and expressed in a similar fashion) by many vapers.

Sometimes, when I see some of the more colourful or abusive comments left on social media by certain vapers, I ask the same question about vapers' rights. Then I come to my senses and tell myself that defending vapers is the right thing to do and a few intemperate comments won't change that.

I've had my share of abuse from the more militant smokers who think Forest doesn't do enough to protect smokers' rights. Never, however, has it shaken my commitment to the cause. Sticks and stones and all that.

Sticking our heads above the parapet, as we do, makes us targets. It's frustrating when the criticism is unfounded or based on ignorance but it shouldn't affect what we fundamentally believe in.

Friday, July 17, 2015 at 16:39 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

FRUSTRATION - It's not just a game by Hasbro!

Liberties are taken on a daily basis by those in the know, those that have financial or Political clout and 'messiahs' who purport to represent the oppressed masses - nowt unusual there.

As with everything - the REAL voice of millions of people will be manipulated by those with the above credentials to suit their own agenda.

A few vocal ecig users, sorry 'vapers', extolling the virtues of Clive et al, is insignificant. Most ecig users just want to be left alone to enjoy them, just like most smokers.

The SHS pseudo-science destroyed us (smokers) and successive 'improvements' on the propaganda with the associated Laws have neutered us.

'Vapers' and ecig users (including myself) believe that documenting how TC, big business, WHO and Governments are manoeuvring, squirming and manipulating pseudo-science and epidemonology (whoops!) to remove choice and restrict a product that is inherently 'safer' than cigarettes will HELP smokers IF the message sinks in to the masses.

I personally hold NO hope, but I'm trying (in my own little way) to help achieve that.

Friday, July 17, 2015 at 21:20 | Unregistered CommenterRussell VR Ord

Simon,
Keep in mind that my observation was positive not normative. Whether or not choosing to abandon a cause you might support it is a reasonable reaction to a few people acting like that, it does happen. Fair or not. Also keep in mind that I did not say that was going to be my reaction.

Ecig chatterers are certainly guilty of rudeness, cluelessness, aggressively touting stupid claims, and such. But I have never noticed quite the same antisocial behavior I have experienced from some smokers' rights people, notably including some opinion leaders in that area, not just the random chatterers.

I annoy the vapers quite often by telling the truths that depart from their party line (e.g., it is almost certainly higher risk than using smokeless tobacco; of course it is a "tobacco product" and it is silly to claim otherwise; some of their pet favorite pundits neither understand the science nor are really on their side[*]). But though I might get a few random semi-literate bits of disagreement from those who do not understand who I am, I never see anything like what I almost inevitably get when I enter a conversation in this area. Nor do I see that directed at others who are honest, accurate, and generally on the same side from pro-ecig extremists - though obviously it might occur and I am not seeing it.

Re the [*], it is notable that the naive vapers have a habit of embracing gurus who are not really good for their cause in the long run. This particularly includes supposed experts who really do not know what they are talking about, and thus if the other side actually were to ever employ real scientific arguments would ultimately be a point of weakness. It also includes a lot of people who do not believe in their rights, but are really authoritarians who have merely decided that their whim du jour is to force smokers to use a particular alternative product; tomorrow they will be making a different authoritarian demand that might not be so well liked. So, yeah, returning to the topic of this post, there are a lot of idiots who are embracing people who would strip away their rights in a minute if their whim changed - and so only those who really believe in THR and *thus* really believe in smokers' rights are really on their side.

But, I can tell you that Clive is not one of those authoritarians. He may be more anti-smoking than I, but he does not embrace the anti-smoking junk science and supports real human rights. I could not tell you for sure about Louise Ross, but I have seen no indication that she is an authoritarian. As for the others you mention, well....

Oh, and my "tobacco tactics" page not only exists, but is the #1 most popular page at that site. Just want to get credit for that :-). And like all the others, it is not exactly a good idea to use it for reference when seeking the truth. It is not like there are not published biosketches of me in about a million places that were designed to be accurate rather than libelous.

Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 14:16 | Unregistered CommenterCarl V Phillips

Points taken, Carl, but see the Update I've added to this post. I agree with a lot of what you say but I look forward to having a lively discussion the next time we meet, preferably over a drink and not on a panel, although it would make an interesting debate.

Sunday, July 19, 2015 at 12:19 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

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