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« The impact of TPD on consumer choice | Main | Why Sheffield's smoke free children's parks policy includes vaping »

Tempted by the smoke of another

Last week, following the launch of a new "vapers' rights" campaign, it was suggested it was wrong to make vapers stand outside in the cold with smokers, breathing in their smoke.

I read that to mean it might be bad for their health even though there is no evidence that smoking outside is harmful to anyone other than the smoker - and even that should be qualified because millions of smokers live long and healthy lives regardless of their habit.

Well, that interpretation was wrong, apparently. What the author and campaign manager meant was that the smell of tobacco smoke is alluring and might tempt vapers back to smoking (which is a terrible thought, obviously).

Now I know I should let this go but I can't. This is a blog, after all, and if we can't have a lively discussion here what's the point? All I would ask is that no-one should take this personally. I'm just trying to have a debate, nothing more.

Anyway it's nagged away at me because I remember a similar argument was used to justify the ban on smoking in pubs and clubs.

According to tobacco control campaigners it wasn't fair that ex-smokers and those wishing to quit couldn't go to the pub without being exposed to an enticing pall of cigarette smoke.

Likewise the ban on tobacco advertising, graphic health warnings and the display ban were justified, in part, to stop ex-smokers relapsing.

We were told that the sight of a packet of cigarettes behind the counter couldn't fail to tempt a child or ex-smoker. Solution? Put them behind shutters. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that.

The latest thing is that "E-cigarette advertising has the power to drive former smokers back to real cigarettes."

According to the Herald Sun in Australia a new study has "prompted calls to ban e-cigarette promotions in the same way tobacco advertising was restricted decades ago."

Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White said failing to ban e-cigarette advertising could undermine the resolve of former smokers as well as decades of gains since tobacco advertising was outlawed.

"Some of these ads look very much like people using a cigarette, (and) probably just watching people using that ­motion doesn’t help former smokers suppress their urges," she said.

The underlying message behind all these campaigns and policies is that smokers and ex-smokers (including vapers) are essentially rather dumb.

They are so easily influenced that almost anything - advertising, packaging, the smell of tobacco smoke - will encourage them to light up or relapse.

I accept that some people are weak-willed (I'm one of them) but should society be regulated exclusively for our benefit?

In my case should crisps, Bombay mix and salted peanuts be regulated to the nth degree to stop me snacking and becoming even more obese?

Should cartons of double cream carry a health warning and be hidden behind sliding doors to remove the shameful grip it has on me?

Likewise alcohol and anything else that, consumed regularly or to excess, might not be 'good' for us.

The idea that ex-smokers must be protected from the company of smokers and the "allure" of tobacco smoke is the same argument public health campaigners use to justify a ban on e-cigarette advertising.

It implies that ex-smokers (including vapers) are so feeble and lacking in personal responsibility that the state must step in and protect them - for their own good.

According to the tobacco control industry very few people choose to smoke. From that first tantalising cigarette smokers are caught up in a web of addiction and the overwhelming majority, so we are told, want to quit.

Pat Nurse has strong views on this subject and will be writing a guest post when she returns from holiday. In the meantime a comment by Nate in response to this post is worth repeating:

The idea that all ex-smokers live out the rest of their lives in some sort of "recovery" mode, wherein they are constantly tempted to "relapse" and fall off the proverbial wagon, is in itself an extension of the nonsensical tobacco control worldview.

Specifically, it requires an acceptance of the "addiction" model, in which smokers are nothing but weak-willed, morally deficient drug junkies with little or no agency over their own behavior. Under this model (which has been prevalent in tobacco control for around 30 years now), no one smokes because they want to or because they enjoy it, and no smoker can take it or leave it whenever they like.

As those of us know who inhabit a real world filled with actual people, everything about this model is spectacularly incorrect.

I couldn't agree more.

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Reader Comments (5)

“Some of these ads look very much like people using a cigarette, ...”

Only an anti-smoker could possibly confuse the two. The similarities between smoking and vaping are far outweighed by the huge differences. For a start, there’s the sheer weight of e-cigarettes. It just isn’t possible to hold a vape in the same, almost indifferent, way that one can hold a cigarette between just two fingers in one hand. Even the very smallest of them demand at least to be held using the thumb underneath, a lá aiming a dart at a dartboard; larger models have to be held with the whole fist, usually close to the mouth, more like holding a microphone.

The action of vaping, too, bears little similarity to the action of vaping. When drawing on a cigarette, it is raised to the mouth with the back of the hand outwards and the hand is generally removed until after the puff has been taken; to smoke an e-cigarette in this way is possible, but only by supporting it very firmly with the thumb underneath and a rather awkward “hooked fingers” arrangement over the top (which is probably why most vapers don’t vape that way). And if a vaper were to try and let this grip go whilst puffing, they’d risk their e-cigarette dropping straight onto the floor or into their lap, unless of course they clenched it firmly between their front teeth whilst doing so, which few do.

Of course, there’s always the supposed similarity between blowing out a cloud of smoke and a cloud of steam, and to an out-of-touch anti-smoker the fact that anything’s being blown out at all will instantly make them think “Ooh, smoking! Naughty!” but in fact there is little similarity between exhaled smoke and exhaled vapour. There’s a difference between the random, curling idleness of white smoke from a cigarette just before the start of a puff and the almost-invisible fine blue exhalation after it, whereas e-cigarette vape looks the same (i.e. just like vape) from the moment one starts pulling on the e-cigarette until it is blown out again. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any difference in appearance between escaped, pre-puff vape and the exhaled variety. In fact, one of the things in the e-cigarette ads which looks least like smoking (or indeed like most of the vaping I’ve ever witnessed) is the vast quantities of vape that they surround the actors with. There’s so much of it that they often look like they’re sidelining as dry-ice producers for a stage show!

In fact, I don’t know if vapers actually do inhale, but none that I’ve seen ever look like they’re doing so. It’s a very fast action, comparatively speaking, rather like teenagers trying their first fag – it’s puff/blow, puff/blow, puff/blow rather than the smokers’ puff/inhale/hold/blow. Maybe that’s why vapers never look quite so relaxed as smokers do – they always seem to be in a terrible rush (although I realise they’re probably not), whereas smokers always seem to be taking their time (even though, often, they’re not). Only the other day, I was waiting in my car for my OH to come out of a shop and there was a smoker and a vaper both outside a restaurant, chatting. And I counted. For every puff that the smoker took, the vaper took four. When he’d finished his cigarette, the smoker stood a while longer, talking to his acquaintance, and all the while the vaper kept at it, puffing and blowing like a old-style steam train, and continued for a good five minutes after his companion had gone back inside.

Given the size and shape and way one has to use e-cigarettes, there are actually more similarities to the action of moving a forkful of food into the mouth for eating than there is to smoking. Oh dear – now I’ve probably given the anti-obesity lot an idea to start calling for the ads to be banned, too. “E-cigarette adverts encourage over-eating!” they will shriek ....

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 2:01 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I agree with your viewpoint, however as a vaper it is extremely difficult not to be tempted into the cheapshot.

Consider what this supposed research is saying: apparently the mere sight of "watching people using that motion doesn’t help former smokers suppress their urges".

Now consider that the same Quit Victoria wants to force vapers outside with the smokers. Apparently watching people 'using that motion' in real life has no effect (at least none to worry about) but watching people on television 'using that motion' is of great concern.

The hypocrisy is mind boggling. It is very hard not to go for the cheapshot when confronted with this nonsense.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 5:25 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

E cigarettes are on the decline in this part of the country. Many people have gone back to smoking properly. They prefer it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 at 15:29 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

"Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White"

This organization's name is probably more ironic than was ever intended.

Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 3:25 | Unregistered CommenterNate

Actually, vaping (specially if puffing without inhaling) is more similar to pipe smoking than to cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are disposable immediately after smoking them, while the pipe and the vaping gear are not. Both are much bulkier than cigarettes and are objects that require care and maintenance. I started vaping just to try it for fun, not as an aid to quit smoking the pipe (and cigars, I have not smoked cigarettes in 25 years). Vaping was pleasant precisely because the ritual and the effects are so similar to smoking my pipe: choosing e-juice brands and flavors is like choosing tobacco brands, flavors and smells, choosing kits is like choosing pipe models. There are health benefits in both, the e-cig and the pipe (if not inhaling the smoke), but perhaps very few cigarette smokers will switch to pipe smoking because it is not seen as "cool" (it is regarded as an old men's habit). E-cigs, on the other hand, are "cool" and widely used also by women.

Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 4:34 | Unregistered CommenterRoberto

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