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Wednesday
Jul052017

Vapers! Appeasement doesn't work and here's the evidence

H/T to Twitter (and Tom Gleeson aka @Rathmacan) for bringing this to my attention.

A discussion paper published on April 28 by the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation asks, 'Should e-cigarette use be included in indoor smoking bans?'

It is of course increasingly common for vaping to be prohibited in places where smoking is banned and some countries have even gone so far as to legislate on the issue.

The UK isn't one of them (yet) so I read the paper with interest. It sets out the arguments for allowing vaping in public places, and not allowing it.

The authors cite just two reasons for permitting vaping:

First, allowing vaping in indoor public places may encourage smokers to switch to vaping, by making it relatively more attractive ...

Second, allowing vaping in indoor public places where smoking is not permitted could minimize any discomfort that e-cigarette users may experience from nicotine withdrawal when being in such settings. However, evidence suggests that this discomfort is fairly modest.

In other words, in the authors' opinion this argument isn't very strong and can probably be dismissed.

In contrast they provide no fewer than five arguments for banning vaping in public places. I'll sum them up as follows:

  • At a distance, smoking and vaping may look similar to some people.
  • Close exposure to vaping among people who have recently quit smoking or vaping might trigger them to relapse to smoking.
  • Passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour might lead to adverse health effects.
  • Regardless of the potential health risks, some people find second-hand aerosols from nearby vaping to be a nuisance, since the e-cigarettes can include strong flavours and leave pungent odours.
  • Exemptions that permit vaping in some indoor smoke-free settings (eg certain workplaces, restaurants or pubs) but not others, may risk generating confusion ... so ban vaping everywhere.

Having addressed the issues, for and against, the authors don't mince their words:

Considering the above arguments collectively, we believe that, from a public health perspective, central and local governments should adopt regulations that effectively determine that all designated indoor smoke-free areas are also vape-free areas.

But that's not why I'm highlighting this paper. There's another more pertinent reason.

Justifying the claim that "some people find second-hand aerosols from nearby vaping to be a nuisance" the authors add:

While such nuisance concerns do not appear to have been quantified in surveys, we note that the 2016 vaper-friendly Global Forum on Nicotine conference, actually banned participants from vaping in certain indoor areas due to the nuisance that aerosol clouds caused.

Klaxon alert!!!!

Readers may recall that in May last year, while considering going to GFN16, I chanced upon their vaping policy:

GFN is a vaper friendly conference, actively encouraging participation by consumers and advocates. For various reasons this year we have had to introduce a vaping policy, which we hope will accommodate everyone's needs. The main reasons for this are:

- that some non-vaping delegates last year felt that they were 'trapped' with the vapour, which they found unpleasant and distracting, particularly in the plenary and parallel sessions where there are a lot of people packed into a relatively small space;

- that the Polish government are pushing for indoor usage restrictions - there may be regulators present and we would like them to leave with a positive view of vaping and vapers, and indeed of the conference;

- that since last year the majority of experienced vapers have switched to high powered devices and sub-ohming, which is fine for vape meets but not so good in the conference venue where it tends to create a rather disconcerting fog bank for those who are not used to it.

At the time I commented:

How on earth are vapers going to argue that vaping should be allowed in pubs and other indoor public places when a conference organised and attended by advocates of e-cigarettes voluntarily imposes its own prohibitive policies because of the "rather disconcerting fog bank for those who are not used to it"?

I'm sure the organisers are doing their best to be socially responsible but by imposing this policy on delegates the implication is that vapers cannot be trusted to be discreet and considerate without a formal "policy".

See Vaper-friendly conference restricts and even prohibits vaping to appease "non-vaping delegates".

Within a year a paper on the WHO website is not only recommending that "designated indoor smoke-free areas are also vape-free areas", it actually cites the policy introduced by the "vaper-friendly Global Forum on Nicotine conference" as evidence to support its conclusion.

Doh!

When will people ever learn? Appeasement doesn't work. As Tom Gleeson commented on Twitter, "Give an inch and they use it against you!" Absolutely right.

To repeat: one of the reasons conference organisers gave for the policy was, "There may be regulators present and we would like them to leave with a positive view of vaping and vapers."

How did that go? Well, shortly after GFN16 the Polish government introduced a law banning vaping everywhere that smoking is banned.

It would have been more positive, surely, for regulators to see how little inconvenience there is to anyone when people are quietly stealth vaping indoors.

I searched long and hard to find the vaping policy for GFN17 but couldn't find it anywhere. I wonder why?

I know, there probably wasn't one because since GFN16 the Polish state has intervened and imposed its own vaping policy – on GFN and the entire country.

And it all happened without a whimper. (Did any speaker at GFN condemn the new anti-vaping restrictions? Did they?)

Meanwhile on my Twitter timeline there is a series of tweets from one of the co-founders of GFN urging his followers to watch "some brilliant #GFN17 videos". "If you were there," he adds, "relive it. If not there, see what you missed!"

I don't doubt there were some excellent presentations. But I wouldn't be quite so triumphant because here's the rub. By relenting to pressure from what I believe was a single delegate and appeasing their complaint, the vaping policy adopted by the Global Forum on Nicotine has now been cited as a reason to ban vaping in enclosed public places.

You couldn't make it up.

PS. It has been alleged that it was Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH, who complained about delegates vaping. I understand it was someone else so, on this occasion, give Deborah some slack.

Btw, it's been mentioned many times in the past week that smoking bans are welcomed by smokers who want to quit, and even by some who don't.

The WHO's discussion paper 'Should e-cigarette use be included in indoor smoking bans?' uses the same argument in relation to vapers:

Evidence suggests that many smokers support smoke-free areas, because this helps encourage them to quit. It seems plausible that this reasoning would also apply to e-cigarette users, who wish to either constrain the level of their vaping or to quit vaping and may therefore favour indoor areas being vape-free.

With a few honorable exceptions, vaping advocates have been remarkably quiet this past week while tobacco control has been celebrating the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban.

I've no doubt many think the ban is irrelevant, ancient history, doesn't affect them etc.

Then there's the public health campaigners who support e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool. Without doubt every single one of them is an enthusiastic supporter of the smoking ban and every piece of anti-smoking legislation that followed in the subsequent decade.

The problem is, once you've kick started a tsunami of laws on lifestyle issues it's very difficult to put the regulation genie back in the box, as pro-vaping public health activists are now discovering.

Likewise, once you willingly submit to a voluntary vaping ban at your own "vaper-friendly" conference, you give your opponents all the ammunition they need.

Well done, GFN!

PPS. Just to be clear, the vaping policy at the Forest Freedom Dinner last week was:

Vaping allowed everywhere, even in the restaurant during dinner because we knew our vaping guests would act responsibly and with consideration for others.

Unless the law is changed our policy will remain the same. Vaping allowed!

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Reader Comments (18)

Too late for vapers. We warned them. They should have listened. We were talking from experience. We saw history was repeating. They are their own worst enemy, and ours.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 10:09 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

"give Deborah some slack."

Never! If she didn't say it, she thought it. If she didn't think it, she said it a thousand other times in a thousand other places. The woman is evil and deserves whatever she gets

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 13:58 | Unregistered CommenterBucko

Sorry, Bucko, I have serious differences with Deborah Arnott and ASH, but "evil", "deserves whatever she gets"? I don't agree.

Anyway, let's not make this thread about Deborah. It's about something else entirely. I only mentioned her because whenever I've written about the GFN vaping ban someone has invariably pointed the finger at Deborah and my understanding is it wasn't her who complained so I wanted to nip that little rumour in the bud.

I may have been misinformed but this post is not about the identity of the complainant, it concerns the naive and counter-productive decision to appease the complainant.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 14:48 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I think Bucko is pretty close to the mark, actually Simon.

Here we have a woman who enthusiastically spends her whole working life trying to think of ways to make life a misery and punitively expensive for 20% of the adult population of England.

Now I don't know how you personally define 'evil', but in addition to the above I think anyone who can come up with, or endorse the idea of refusing secure mental patients a cigarette in their time of need, or refusing someone who is terminally ill in a hospice a final pleasure, is borderline psychotic, an authoritarian control freak, devoid of any compassion or humanity and yes, evil. There's really no other word which will do.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 16:19 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

I went to GFN last year, when they had the vaping policy in place. From what I saw, it was roundly ignored - both in plenary and in the corridors (although it was restricted to the conference floor). I didn't go this year so I don't know if something similar happened.

As has been mentioned several times in the pages of this blog (along with my own and several others) this all stems from the fact that smoking has been banned in these places.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to the Freedom Dinner (and I really wanted to go, but alas time hasn't been too kind to me recently), but I'll definitely try to get myself there next year.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 16:29 | Unregistered CommenterPaul B

Again, nisakiman, I have to disagree. The word 'evil' is only justified in very extreme circumstances and however strongly you and I feel about these issues I don't believe it's justified here.

As it happens, and despite our very strong disagreements, I've never doubted Deborah's sincerity or her desire to improve the health of the nation. We just happen to be on different sides of a debate in which both camps are, in their own way, equally passionate and committed.

She supports what I consider to be fairly radical state intervention to change people's behaviour with a view to creating a 'healthier' nation. I prefer a less paternalistic approach that recognises the importance of choice and personal responsibility and allows society to evolve at a more natural pace.

Deborah and I disagree fundamentally on many things but, again, that doesn't make her 'evil' - well, no more than me in some people's eyes. It's all highly subjective.

Anyway, for the second time, this post isn't about Deborah Arnott. I only mentioned her in passing for the reason I explained previously. I'm beginning to wish I hadn't!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 16:39 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

They accelerated the inevitable. I don't think there is much more to say really :)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 16:50 | Unregistered CommenterRussell VR Ord

I can't disagree with any of that, Simon. However, vaping bans do not work. Right now there are thousands of people vaping where it is not permitted and only the most foolish will be caught.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 17:29 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

I was at the GFN 17.

Yes, the polish government has by now banned smoking as well as vaping in all "public places". That includes conference rooms in hotels. But the organisers managed to get an exemption for one designated vaping room, where the sessions also could be followed on a large screen.
But usually during intermissions vapers met with (a few) smokers outside on the terrace.

Entertaining impressions

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 17:54 | Unregistered CommenterNorbert Zillatron

I asked BA if I could vape and they said no, the reason was the lithium battery. I then asked if I could use my Kindle, they said yes, lithium battery. I then asked if I could use my phone on safe mode and again they said yes, I then asked why couldn't vape and they said lithium battery. I vape anyway

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at 18:14 | Unregistered CommenterMalcolm MacLean

“Right now there are thousands of people vaping where it is not permitted and only the most foolish will be caught”

Then they’ve got pretty short memories, Jonathan, in view of the way reports like the one Simon cites are going. The portrayal of smokers as selfish people who smoked wherever and whenever they wanted with no consideration for non-smokers around them (this despite the fact that never in my entire smoking life have I ever known a single smoker light up in a designated non-smoking area or premises) was a major piece of the armoury which was used against us in the run-up to the ban. Lots and lots of non-smokers of a certain mindset leapt at the chance of a bit of self-righteous indignation on this score and the theme of “smokers are selfish” is still used today, even as we rigidly and obediently stick to the rules set by them!

Vapers should be careful not to give the same ammunition to opponents of their chosen activity – and vaping in non-vaping areas is precisely that. Whether or not they get caught is irrelevant, the evidence that it’s happened (and the lingering smell of vape is every bit as distinctive as the smell of tobacco smoke) is all that’s needed for a few rabid vape-haters to start flapping their hands around and putting on fake coughs and complaining to “the management” of wherever they are that “someone’s been using an e-cigarette in the back bar (or wherever)” and that “it stinks like a candy floss shop [or a bubble gum factory, or whatever]” and that “it’s set off little Billy’s asthma.” (Yes, even if little Billy’s never actually had asthma in his life). C’mon, you must know the kind of thing. The “next step,” of course, is for a teeny-weeny amendment to the Health Act which makes that very same “management” punishable for anyone else vaping on their premises and – hey presto – all of a sudden your local landlord might no longer be in a position, legally, to turn his “blind eye” any more ...

Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 2:02 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

Tobacco control has no interest in 'permitting' or enabling vaping. In their eyes (as aptly described in this post) it is the equivalent of smoking tobacco and may lead reformed smokers and others to smoke. Any apparent tolerance of vaping is an interim tactical move to split vapes from smokers to erode their political influence. That is tobacco control tolerance of vaping is a case of divide and conquer.

Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 4:09 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Deborah Arnott is a nasty and abusive smokerphobic. Does that make her evil? Perhaps you should ask any loving parent threatened with having their kids taken because they smoke, the old person sat lonely at home because they can no longer socialise, or how about the smoker denied employment or housing because they smoke, thanks to the downright lies and propaganda put out by the likes of Arnott.

She does not care and her actions are not motivated by health. She hates smokers. That is what drives her. She would go to any lengths to remove us from society and even see us in prison.

Is that evil? I can't say it is not and as a lifelong smoker who has had to put up with the consequence of her hatred, I can assure you, there is nothing kind, compassionate or caring about what she does. She displays fanatical hatred of a minority group. To my mind, that makes her no different to Nick Griffin or her organisation any different to the BNP. The only difference is that she is allowed to hate and legislate to support that hate.

How many people have been forced to their deaths because of her hate? See the smoker's graveyard. On balance, therefore, I think she is evil but let's agree to disagree.

Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 12:28 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

In Canada, the vaping community has fallen in tight with the Non-Smokers Rights Association. This isn't going to end well. https://www.regulatorwatch.com/brent_stafford/game-changer-canadas-top-anti-tobacco-group-embraces-vaping/ - if you can stand it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 15:51 | Unregistered CommenterChanah See

I'll believe that Debs is motivated by a sincere desire to improve the health of the nation when ASH's government funding dries up and she does her work as a volunteer.

Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 16:08 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I hesitated for a long time before writing this but it has to be said.
The epithet 'evil' should never be used casually.
So where is it appropriate?
Our forefathers codified standards of behaviour that they felt strongly must be upheld even in the fog of war when murder and mutilation are routine. All civilised nations signed up.
The codified standards are called the 'Geneva convention'.
I submit that deliberately, knowingly, flouting these conventions is a valid definition of 'evil'.

Friday, July 7, 2017 at 6:50 | Unregistered CommenterTony

Misty makes a good point, that when the business owner is fined for not preventing vaping, vapers will be put in the same position as smokers. I also thought of this, after I posted my comment. Yes, it would make things more difficult. However, when I said "foolish", I actually meant using flavoured liquids and exhaling vapour visible to nearby strangers; both of which can be avoided. Most people would be reluctant to report someone for holding or sucking on an object that looks like an ecig, were it not producing an odour or some vapour.

Friday, July 7, 2017 at 12:54 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

@GFN "told you so in 2016" or more specifically something like "shooting yourself in the foot".

PS: Didn't go this year, just because of this attitude of wanting to do the enemy's job for him.

Friday, July 7, 2017 at 16:58 | Unregistered CommenterLuc Van Daele

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