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Tobacco control has created a generation of vaper haters

As some of you know I was on Good Morning Britain yesterday.

Following the implementation of a workplace vaping ban in New York State producers wanted to debate the issue on the not unreasonable grounds that what happens in New York (the smoking ban, for example) could be adopted in the UK.

The item was scheduled for Wednesday but on Tuesday it was pushed back 24 hours. During that time my opponent changed. It was originally going to be an occasional Channel 4 presenter I'd never heard of.

The following day I was told I'd be debating the issue with someone else – journalist Nilufer Atik who I discovered is an occasional guest on This Morning, the ITV programme that follows GMB.

There has been a lot of criticism of Atik on social media. Her anti-vaping, anti-nicotine stance was certainly extreme and – in the view of many people including me – wholly unjustified, but she did the job she was asked to do.

As she admitted to me after the programme, when I put jokingly it to her, she's a professional gob for hire.

Inevitably, and quite naturally, some vapers have also questioned why GMB didn't invite a vaper or vaping advocate to take part.

As it happens, when I was contacted on Monday my first response was to suggest they might invite a vaper instead of me but they were keen for me to appear and I don't like turning down such offers because you never know when they might dry up.

To put it in perspective their first choice was Forest patron Antony Worrall Thompson but he was out of the country on holiday and unavailable. I was therefore their second choice.

As for the daily 'debate', the idea, I think, is to have a bit on a bunfight early in the morning so the more argumentative it is the better.

For that reason the producers are not looking for 'experts' or people with a direct vested interest. They merely want to kick start a discussion that will generate a response while the programme is on air and, later, on social media.

They would prefer celebrities but in the absence of a 'name' they want people who have a track record for being reasonably combative on air.

I've been on GMB several times and I probably fit that category. The nature of my job means I'm also easy to get hold of.

TV producers like that. It means they can confirm their schedule and the names of guests promptly and without delay.

Anyway it was made very clear to me that the GMB producers like "really strong, lively debates ... They like anything that gets people talking."

Unusually they went to some lengths to keep Nilufer Atik and me apart before we went on set. Instead of fraternising in the green room I was ushered away to a smaller hospitality area where I sat alone reading the papers and drinking a cup of tea.

The aim, it seems, was to keep our debate "fresh". To be fair there's some sense to this. Whenever I encounter Deborah Arnott before a head-to-head interview, more often than not she wants to debate the issues before we even go on air. By the time we get in the studio it's all gone a bit flat and our best bits are left, unloved and unrecorded, in the green room.

Yesterday, seconds before we went on set, I was told not to wait to be invited to speak. If I wanted to respond to or interrupt my opponent I should do so, hence my rather shouty performance.

More seriously it's very clear, reading the comments on social media in reaction to the GMB debate, that a lot of people do not like people vaping in public places.

It may be a small minority but it's a very vocal minority, similar to the minority that supported a public smoking ban.

What strikes me is that the online vaping community is failing to respond to these comments.

Instead vapers (and vaping advocates) generally restrict their comments to 'safe spaces' like vaping forums and blogs where they are preaching almost exclusively to the converted.

Alternatively they attend vape fests where, again, they’re surrounded by like-minded people.

In the 'real' world it's rather different. A vocal minority of the general public – driven by an irrational hatred of smoking that has been fuelled by decades of anti-tobacco campaigns and regulations – considers vaping to be the bastard cousin of smoking. Like smoking, they want to expunge it from normal society.

You can bang on all you like about vaping helping smokers to quit. The anti-smoking, anti-vaping minority couldn't care less. All they know is, vapers are exhaling something unpleasant and possibly toxic. At best it's anti-social, at worst it’s harmful. Either way it should be banned.

Those are the comments that are being picked up by bar owners, employers and local councils. Intolerance of smoking has bred intolerance of vaping.

I've been going on about this for years, explaining why vapers must oppose smoking bans and other anti-tobacco regulations, but too many have chosen to remain silent or, worse, condemn smoking as a dirty, disgusting habit they are proud to have given up.

The irony, as I have often pointed out, is that many vaping advocates are actually anti-smoking campaigners whose efforts to prohibit smoking is now fuelling a similar paranoia towards e-cigarettes and nicotine generally.

My advice to vapers is that it's not enough to surround yourselves with like-minded people on vaping forums or attend 'pro-vaping' conferences that allow you to bask in mutual backslapping and the knowledge that you've fought your smoking addiction and won.

A small but vocal minority of the public hates you. They hate you for the same reason they hate smokers so get out of your comfort zone, engage with them and fight back.

To win that battle however you must forget the narrative that works so well with public health and anti-smoking campaigners. You know, the personal stories of how vaping has "saved your life".

That argument doesn't wash with vaper haters. As far they're concerned you're still an addict exhaling "toxic" or obnoxious fumes in their presence.

You need to go on the offensive – and I mean that literally. You need to be as offensive about their intolerance as they are about your nicotine habit. You have to challenge them on their own habits and behaviour, their piousness and their ignorance.

Yesterday on the GMB Twitter feed vapers were bullied almost into silence by a flood of anti-vaping comments. Over many years that's exactly what happened to smokers. So my message to vapers is this.

It helps, obviously, to win the support of public health campaigners but it's not enough (and I would treat it with suspicion anyway).

Most important, you have to win the support of the public and that's going to be a far tougher battle.

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Reader Comments (14)

"Intolerance of smoking has bred intolerance of vaping." I have been saying this for years. Vapers have not listened believing to be accepted they just need to shout loud enough that they are not dirty stinking murdering smokers and push the idea that they can help tobacco control to force us to switch.

They are tarred with the same brush and those "friends" they think they have in public health are proven liars, cheats and backstabbers. As I said many times before, the only way to win is to work together but they will not work with us thinking that distancing themselves from smokers and bashing smoking and repeating all the billion lies told about every aspect of smoking will win them favours. Clearly not.

Sadly it is now too late for many of us smokers who once fought their corner as well as our own until it become clear vapers were happy to use us then abuse us and throw us under the bus when it suited their own ends.

The antismoker divide and conquer has won the day again. This is not the fault of smokers, who have always been looking for allies, but rather the fault of vapers who have looked to shun and avoid us whenever and wherever they can - hence we are not invited to their vape fests, conferences and other get togethers and jollies.

Vapers are treated like scum because we are. Want to save vaping and be accepted? Then fight to save smoking and for smokers to be accepted rather than congratulating those who convert. Can't do it? then you lose and we lose. Conversion is for after the battle we both face to continue enjoying our product of choice is won.

Friday, November 24, 2017 at 13:35 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Looking thru the e-cigarette reddit, it seems that tobacco control has created a generation of self-hating vapers. A surprising number agree with the ban, only wishing that an exception would be made for vape shops.

Friday, November 24, 2017 at 17:57 | Unregistered CommenterChanah See

The lifestyle controllers in the tobacco control grift will attack vaping just as they did smoking since it brings them power and profit. There is no risk to others fro second hand vaping but there was --and is -- none from second hand smoke either. They will employ the same 'confidence game' tactic used to force smoking bans for vaping bans unless their lies are exposed.

Friday, November 24, 2017 at 18:09 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

I have posted this already, there is ample proof out there that what the zealots in public health, ash and others are promoting is picked information of the bad type, they continuously leave out any information which does not agree with their version of the truth. It is about time Forest and others got together and used the legal system to out these untruths once and for all. It is no use for individuals to just place their feelings on blogs such as this. It is way past the time for niceties, as these zealots will just keep on promoting untruths and even lies in order to forward their ideas and bully people into their way of life.

Friday, November 24, 2017 at 21:17 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

Yes, aside from the religious ("We are saved!") and evangelical ("We want to save YOU!") bent, and the almose obligatory smoker-hating rhetoric, I've also noticed the cowering, self-hating aspect to vaperism. The disdain for vapers who exhale too much; the boasts of how "considerate" they are for not vaping around 'others," the tacit acknowledgment that vaping is offensive and rightfully should be banned wherever smoking is. And then they wonder why vaping is banned.

Friday, November 24, 2017 at 21:59 | Unregistered CommenterWaltc

PS: if you're faced with that coffee argument again, you might remind your opponent that coffee contains at least 21 known carcinogens (see Ames, 2000) which are also molecularly present in its aroma. Many of which, not btw, are identical to those found in secondhand smoke from actual cigarettes. So by drinking coffee in public, she's poisoning the air of nearby innocent strangers, and by brewing and drinking it at home doing God knows what damage to her one-year old child. . But the real point is--she's drinking it voluntarily consuming 21 carcinogens without a second thought.

Friday, November 24, 2017 at 22:11 | Unregistered CommenterWaltc

Simon, I've actually shared a radio stint with you before (a late-night Radio 5 one, where you got to shout at Stan Glantz but I did not) and you probably know as well as most, vapers can't get airtime unless specifically invited to take part.

That in itself is the biggest part of the problem - we can and do have voices, but are more often than not denied the chance to speak.

I have managed to stick up for vapers (and smokers) on R5, LBC, BBC Radio Wales and BBC West Midlands and would do so more, if only the opportunities/invites were more forthcoming.

This is the problem - FOREST is a well-established organisation who have been in the public domain for a good number of years and therefore are more likely to get airtime, than the "young" in comparison vapers and vaping organisations.

When this view in media circles changes then maybe, just maybe, we'll get chance to debate ourselves, and a vaper will be sat where you were on This Morning.

Friday, November 24, 2017 at 22:36 | Unregistered CommenterGunJack

Vaping advocates, as predicted, are now starting to feel the results of relying almost exclusively on assorted variants of the “at least we aren’t smokers” argument as their sole method of defence, which they have done up until now. By and large, the media aren’t really interested in smoking any more. It’s yesterday’s news and most of the viewing/listening public are bored with it, and the media know it. In the several years running up to the ban smoking was blamed for pretty much every illness on the planet, hugely exaggerated claims were made both about the harm done by tobacco smoke and the promised benefits of the smoking ban, to the point that now, there’s virtually nothing left to blame it for that hasn’t already been reported! Even ASH and their ilk have trouble whipping people up into the kind of self-righteous anti-smoking hysteria that they used to be able to instigate so easily before the ban, because most people – smokers and non-smokers alike – are heartily sick of hearing (and I quote a non-smoker here) “Yet another anti-smoking scare.” So the last thing any TV programme wants is to invite a speaker on to discuss one issue (vaping) only to find that that speaker insists on constantly dragging the discussion into another area (smoking) that they don’t want to cover. It must be incredibly frustrating for any presenter to be constantly bringing a speaker back “on topic,” because essentially that just takes up precious time which could otherwise be spent actually discussing the topic they were asked to talk about. That’s probably why vapers don’t get invited on to these programmes and you do, Simon, because at least with your emphasis on choice rather than the hackneyed old “vapers v smokers,” line you can be relied upon to stick to the subject.

The problem for vapers, like drinkers, is that in essence, there are very few other arguments which they can apply with any credibility which don’t then inevitably apply to smokers, too – thus putting them in the unenviable position of either maintaining their anti-smoking stance, but then leaving themselves vulnerable to (unfortunately accurate) accusations of hypocrisy, or having to abandon their anti-smoking stance and thus also having to abandon what has, up until now, been their most reliable pro-vaping argument.

But unless vapers and drinkers swallow their pride and realise that they have to speak with smokers rather than against them, they simply won’t be able to mount any kind of defence that won’t be effortlessly demolished by the opposition, because everything that’s so far been thrown at smokers over the years can – and in my view will – be similarly thrown at vapers and drinkers in the coming years. If a few well-funded and highly experienced lobbyists can get away with making extraordinarily exaggerated claims about the health risks of smoking, then they can, and will, get away with making extraordinarily exaggerated claims about the health risks of vaping and drinking; if the public can be convinced that smokers are harming other people around them with their tobacco smoke (whether true or not), then they can also be convinced that vapers and drinkers are harming other people around them with their vape and/or their drunken behaviour (whether true or not); if people can be convinced that it is acceptable to deny smokers housing, jobs, healthcare and social activities because of their insistence on continuing to smoke, then they can equally be convinced that it is acceptable to deny vapers and drinkers housing, jobs, healthcare and social activities because of their insistence on continuing to vape or drink; if politicians can be persuaded to impose excessive taxes on tobacco in order to prevent young people from taking up smoking, then they can be persuaded to impose excessive taxes on vapes and alcohol in order to prevent young people from taking up vaping or drinking. The list goes on and on, but until vapers and drinkers see it, it will go on, and it will go on in their direction, whether they want it to or not.

Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 2:30 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Tobacco Control has taken over the vaping advocacy and are dictating the agenda: Vaping should not be used to oppose the anti-smoking herd they created, but should be used to reinforce it. With vaping they will win the endgame...

... they do not realize the endgame can't be won by a minority. The vocal anti-smoking minority is as much a minority as the vocal vaping crusaders who are 'saving lives'.

Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 19:48 | Unregistered CommenterLuc Van Daele

Anyone ever tried to convince a born again Christian that there is no god? You can imagine how that conversation will go. You'd have better luck convincing them that the world is flat. Well that is how it would be like trying to convince the vast majority of vaping advocates to abandon their smug mantra that vaping saved their lives. The intolerance towards smoking in public vaping advocacy is immense. That was always going to happen when lifelong tobacco controllers became board member vaping advocates and injected their vitriol into the veins of the vaping community. Those of us who have been reading the blogs for years and years know that all of this was predicted half a decade ago at least. It is sad that now there are fewer blogs for smokers. I guess we still have a couple left, but some of those focus more on ecigs now. Even the libertarians have abandoned smokers and now openly advocate against smoking in favour of vaping. It is even sadder that some vapers have thrown smokers under the bus, as Pat put it. I guess we're used to it. I used to vape when I was unable to smoke but the few vape shops near me are so antismoking, quite literally plastered with antismoking posters and signs, that the thought of supporting their businesses makes me ill. I can't support people who treat me like I am a leper. I am tired of being a punching bag and a pariah. It would be nice if prominent vapers stood up for smokers, but they won't, not publicly anyway. Maybe tobacco control won't let them. I don't know. I think I would have better luck convincing vapers that god doesn't exist or that the earth is flat. What does it matter anyway? We're all going to die eventually.

Sunday, November 26, 2017 at 7:07 | Unregistered CommenterJalene

As a non smoker I was one of those people who welcomed the ban in pubs, however you know the old saying "Be careful what you wish for". I was always inclined for there to be for smokers their own section in a bar that was well ventilated. I'm fairly sure that public houses to day would be thriving, and that that area would be the most sought after.
What I think is the reason today why smokers are so looked down on, is because of their inconsideration to other non smokers. Yes there are people who did have some manners but the vast bulk of smokers were intolerant towards all others.
May I suggest that Vapers or is it Vapours change their tack, maybe by switching to a pipe, it always looks cool and rather more refined. Then maybe the anti smoke lot might look a bit more kindly towards you, guile can achieve quite a lot you know.

Monday, November 27, 2017 at 21:45 | Unregistered CommenterDan E

I never was an inconsiderate smoker and i would argue the vast majority were not either. We all moved out and away from non smokers, never questioned various no smoking policies, until the line was crossed and we were excluded from everywhere. However, a minority were inconsiderate but etiquette was never promoted. Inciting public disgust always too precedence.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 9:59 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

It seems that when someone who is a non smoker yet sympathetic to the smoking lobby, tries to point out something that has brought about the present circumstances, you can't accept it! The inconsideration was the main thing that brought this back to bite smokers in the arse.
The sad thing about the present circumstances is the really Draconian laws that you have inflicted on yourselves. You as smokers may not own up to it but that's how it is.
From the point of view of someone who would like to see some of the harsh treatment gone, and less control that they have now.
I would love to see Tobacconist shops return to the normality that once was, and smokers being more considerate.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 11:18 | Unregistered CommenterDan E

I repeat. I was always and still am a considerate smoker but it is getting harder as more bans mean I am constantly pushed under the noses of people in the street who hate smoking because my choices of where I can access public places I am entitled to use become more limited. I believe that if etiquette, or just good manners, had been promoted, there would not be the conflict that exists today and we might all have the choice to avoid each other. I stand by my view that good manners were never encouraged via public ad campaigns - just the "you stink" type which were never going to endear smokers to want to listen to antismokers' accusations of inconsiderate.

The Draconian laws were not inflicted upon us by smokers but intolerant antismokers who have a bigger agenda as we are all now beginning to see.

The inconsideration now comes from the anti smoker lobby who want the whole world to themselves, both inside and outside while still claiming the right to be rude and insulting to people who smoke.

The world is big enough for all of us and those who know the meaning of choice accept this truth. Smokers did not ask for their own exclusion. Like plain packs and display and vending machine bans etc since, it was forced upon them.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 18:05 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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