A new era
Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 9:50
Simon Clark

Aaron Biebert has posted a couple of comments on my last post.

You can read them here.

At risk of annoying the director of A Billion Lives even further, here’s my response to his response to my response to his tweet that declared ‘A new era of the anti-smoking movement begins today in the US. We're a small (but very proud) part of it. Check this out!‘:

Aaron, let me get this right. There is a new anti-smoking movement. It still involves smoking bans, punitive taxation and denormalisation, but this is a gentler, kinder form of anti-smoking because smokers will be offered alternatives to smoking that will make giving up much easier.

I’m sorry, but however you dress it up, anti-smoking is anti-smoking and when you declare you are “very proud” to be part of the “anti-smoking movement” (which is where I came in) don’t blame us if we take you at face value.

Leaving aside the wisdom of embracing the same name (if you are genuinely different from the ‘old’ anti-smoking nutjobs and prohibitionists you would surely want to distance yourself from them), I’m not convinced there’s a great deal of difference between the old and new era you describe.

For example, the article your original tweet urged us to read (Finding a balance between protecting our youth and saving 40 million smokers’ lives) concludes:

Public health officials ought to welcome the manufacture and marketing of regulated, safer nicotine containing products and encourage innovation and competition to eliminate smoked products. Products and regulation that will make smoking obsolete will also make most concerns about youth moot once smoking disappears and safer products are available. This will take time but if we keep our eye on the prize and if cooler heads prevail, America can lead the way to get rid of burning tobacco products.

‘Eliminate smoked products’, ‘make smoking obsolete’, ‘get rid of burning tobacco products’ ... It’s pretty clear that the goal of the ‘new’ anti-smoking movement you are “very proud” to be part of is not dissimilar to that of the ‘old’ anti-smoking movement - the elimination of combustible tobacco.

Both movements are driven by zealots who seem to know what’s best for other people. The difference is, the ‘new’ anti-smoking movement now has technology (and Philip Morris) on its side.

I think you’re nice guy, Aaron, and you mean well, but you’re flailing around a bit here. We called you out on your boast that you’re “very proud” to be part of the “anti-smoking movement” and you’ve tried to justify that by talking about a ‘new era’.

Words matter so why mention ‘anti-smoking’ at all? If you can’t throw yourself enthusiastically behind the ‘pro-choice’ movement, why not say you’re “proud” to be part of the “tobacco harm reduction movement”? Instead you chose to nail your colours to the ‘anti-smoking’ mast and no amount of semantics about a ‘new era’ can change that.

Btw, a word of advice: it’s always better to be ‘pro’ than ‘anti’ because it lends itself to a far more positive message. Also, declaring that you are proud to be ‘anti-smoking’ is a red rag to many smokers, even those who may be thinking about quitting for health or other reasons.

Like it or not, it makes you the enemy to many smokers who have put up with decades of harassment and abuse from the international stop smoking brigade. It may even make some smokers who are thinking of giving up less likely to quit or switch to new nicotine products because that’s human nature.

Finally, I totally accept that some smokers want to quit and (possibly) need help. We’ve never denied that or the serious health risks associated with smoking, although I do think they’re exaggerated.

Forest embraces and supports ‘safer’ nicotine products and opposes vaping bans and other unnecessary restrictions on e-cigarettes because we believe in choice. The difference between us and most vaping advocates is that we will NEVER abandon those who enjoy smoking and don’t want to stop.

Article originally appeared on Simon Clark (http://taking-liberties.squarespace.com/).
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