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Pat Nurse: Why I will not quit or switch

According to the Government green paper, ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’, slipped out on Monday evening during the death throes of Theresa May’s ill-fated regime:

We are setting an ambition to go 'smoke-free' in England by 2030. This includes an ultimatum for industry to make smoked tobacco obsolete by 2030, with smokers quitting or moving to reduced risk products like e-cigarettes.‘

The sheer stupidity of this statement is staggering. Tobacco companies can offer smokers reduced risk products but they can’t force consumers to quit smoking and switch to vaping.

If they stop selling cigarettes in the UK many smokers would buy them abroad. At the same time illegal tobacco factories would churn out millions of illicit cigarettes to feed demand.

As for e-cigarettes, the more they are promoted as nothing more than a quit smoking tool the less attractive they will become for smokers like Pat Nurse (below) whose attitude to vaping is already ambivalent.

The following post was written by Pat for the New Nicotine Alliance blog but (understandably perhaps!) the NNA decided it wasn’t for them.

In the wake of the prevention green paper, however, I thought it might be a good moment to read the opinion of a committed and unapologetic smoker who doesn’t want to quit or switch.

Vaping advocates and tobacco control campaigners could learn from it. Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who survived Boris’s thrilling cull of Theresa May’s abject Cabinet on Wednesday night, should read it too.

Note: This is an edited version of the article submitted to the NNA.

Guest post | Why I will not quit or switch | Pat Nurse

As a lifelong smoker from childhood to grannyhood I can say, hand on heart, that I don’t need saving and there is nothing I find more patronising than the view that, as a smoker, I need rescuing from myself.

I want a joyful life. I don’t care how long it is. My never smoking sister died recently of cancer aged 61 which only confirmed in my mind that I would not want to live a puritan life only to find that denying myself the things that give me pleasure just leads to a miserable and premature end anyway.

It’s arrogant, frankly, to promote the idea that e-cigarettes are ‘better’ for every smoker. It’s one of the most cringeworthy messages coming from the vaping fraternity who come across as evangelical in their belief that their preferred product is a lifesaver.

In truth, any mention of tobacco harm reduction gets my hackles up because it is usually a veiled shorthand for quitting or switching and I intend to do neither.

Harm reduction doesn’t have to involve stopping smoking. It can also include smoking differently (smokers don't have to inhale for the taste, for example) or smoking less (the dose makes the poison and no-one can convince me that smoking five cigarettes a day is as potentially harmful as smoking 40).

The debate should be about choice, respecting choice and fighting for everyone’s right to choose.

Vapers who are serious about defending their habit would do well to distance themselves from vaping advocates and public health campaigners for whom smoking cessation appears to be the only thing that matters.

They look and sound exactly the same as those anti-smoking activists who have waged a 12-year hate campaign against people like me for no other reason than I won’t quit, I’m not ill and I’m not dead.

While vaping remains a genuine choice - not something that is forced on smokers by removing the right to smoke and replacing tobacco with e-cigarettes - it will be an attractive option for many smokers, especially those who are priced out of smoking with punitive taxation.

Once it gets owned by public health however any appeal that e-cigarettes have for smokers like me could be lost for good. Many smokers who have yet to switch will back off because - and I can only speak for myself and friends I have spoken to - sucking on an ecig already makes me feel like a nerd.

I also feel people are looking at me as if I’m an addicted nerd sucking on a toy because I can’t have a fag. Can you imagine how we’ll feel if we’re expected to switch to vaping just because it’s advocated by public health?

While smoking remains legal smokers have a right to smoke in the same way that any consumer has the right to use a legal product, especially one on which we pay so much tax.

Vapers cannot win by claiming their product is safer - even if it is - because waiting down the line is the 'definitive study' that shows that vaping is 'far more harmful than we thought'.

Thanks to the junk studies attacking vaping, vapers already know the issue is not about health. How many Dame Sallys are there out there who think they have a right not to be 'assaulted' by vapers' 'smoke' as they walk down the street?

When I first heard about the New Nicotine Alliance I was really excited because I thought that here was a new group taking ownership of nicotine in all its forms, including smoking, and a new message about choice and responsibility would emerge.

I also thought, wrongly, that we beleaguered fighters for choice and freedom to live life as we choose would be strengthened by new friends with a common interest.

By excluding smokers like me from their nicotine club it transpired that the NNA was just another smoking cessation campaign. Far from being a friend to all consumers of nicotine, it promotes vaping at the expense of smoking.

That said, I wonder if for some of us the issue is about nicotine at all. I smoke for the smoke. If it was just about nicotine surely I would be happy vaping when it walks like a duck, acts like a duck, and sounds like a duck? And why wouldn’t patches or gum satisfy my senses like a good hand-rolled cigarette?

If it was just about nicotine why can’t I enjoy a manufactured cigarette which I quit about 30 years ago? And why, when I have no tobacco, am I happier smoking tea leaves than vaping an ecig?

If vapers want to win the war they need to distance themselves from the public health industry but it’s too late to persuade me to switch because of the way the battles have already been framed and fought.

I love smoking and I know I will never quit. In a free society where smoking is not yet illegal I have a right to exist and do as I like. Where and when I smoke in private is no one else's business.

I also know I have never harmed another living soul and I absolutely resent the junk science that claims my smoking harms others – the same junk science that says e-cigarettes give people popcorn lung and change the behaviour of young people who get 'sucked in' to vaping.

I don’t believe any of the scare stories about vaping because over 51 years I have heard them all before about smoking.

But if vaping is not to go the same way as smoking vapers have to grit their teeth and fight for the right to smoke as well as the right to vape. Only then, when we are all back inside socialising together, will I even begin listening to how wonderful vaping is.

Above: Pat Nurse photographed by Dan Donovan

Update: Interesting. Although they didn’t publish Pat’s article, her message hasn’t been lost on the NNA.

Earlier today this appeared on the group’s website:

‪‘Many smokers are suspicious of vaping because they feel it may just be a tool that government might use to coerce them into quitting.’

To read the full post click here: ‘Government’s Green Paper is the wrong approach’ (NNA).

It’s a good piece, worth reading - and overdue!

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Reader Comments (2)

There was a time vaping activists only talked about their right to vape (or the right to consume any legal product for that matter). Since PH started to call them “advocates”, it is all about a smoke free world by 2030...

e.g. Listen to them talking about "an epidemic of teen vaping". If vaping is truly 95% safer as smoking, we should call it an epidemic of responsible choice amongst teens. But people going through puberty should are not supposed act responsible, we cannot have this. "We must do something to divert this crisis".

All kidding aside, kids (like adults) who are vaping in order not to smoke is fine, but kids taking up vaping for the fun of it, because it is cool, hip, fly… all those reasons why any of us started smoking and started that “smoking epidemic” is not. We do not want to replace a “smoking epidemic” with a “vaping epidemic”. Vaping is only temporarily allowed and should be phased out with this generation, not to be taking up by future generations.

Of course, since those kids heard as well that vaping does not pose the same health risk as smoking, it is a real crisis. How to pass on that message to adults but not to teenagers? One solution to this is to medicalise vaping, and the UK (NNA) is leading the way. Hence that focus on vaping being only a THR quit-smoking-tool.

A smoke free world by 2030... and a vape free world by 2050 (mark my words). However, in 2030 it will be too late to realise that. The vaping "advocates" are shooting themselves in the foot with a machine gun lately. In addition, the old vape activists have all been forced into retirement or were brainwashed to become health advocates.

Saturday, July 27, 2019 at 13:32 | Unregistered CommenterLuc Van Daele

Pat Nurse is an inspiration.

Thursday, August 1, 2019 at 16:24 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

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