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Tuesday
Apr262011

Is 'vaping' the new smoking?

Interesting to read that e-cigarettes are to be regulated as tobacco products in the USA.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to regulate smokeless electronic cigarettes as tobacco products and won’t try to regulate them under stricter rules for drug-delivery devices.

The news is said to be a victory for the makers and distributors of e-cigs, one or two of whom have been quick to respond, recognising a good marketing opportunity.

According to the manufacturer of Vapestick, for example:

A Vapestick is an electronic cigarette that delivers the same experience as smoking a normal cigarette but without the intake, or emission, of the harmful pollutants produced by tobacco smoke.

Vapesticks produce no tar, no ash, no carbon monoxide and they are odourless. They work electronically, with a water-based vapour delivering the smoke sensation, and this has made them an instant hit with pubs and clubbers as they are also completely legal to use anywhere.

Further, newly released Vapestick models have the option to come with or without nicotine and different levels of nicotine Vapesticks have been developed so that users can find the closest alternative option to the tobacco cigarettes they have been used to, and decrease levels of nicotine over time, if they wish.

Smoking with a vapestick, or vaping as it has become commonly known, has finally given people the option to smoke anywhere again, without having to pollute themselves and those around them.

The company's website adds that 'vaping' is the new smoking. "Why smoke when you can vape?" it asks.

The issue of smokeless tobacco products is a very interesting one. I have heard it said that cigarettes – the overwhelmingly dominant tobacco product of the last hundred years – will gradually lose that dominance in the 21st century as consumers graduate to a wide range of smokeless tobacco products. These will include e-cigs, snus (if it is legalised) and products that have yet to be developed.

I don't have a problem with that – or the FDA's announcement about e-cigs (which I welcome) – but I worry that the manufacturers of e-cigarettes are far too keen to jump on the anti-smoking bandwagon. It's understandable, I suppose – they have a smokeless product to sell – but annoying nevertheless.

Last year I was contacted by a journalist working for an internet marketing company that was promoting an electronic cigarette company. I was asked if Forest would like an article about e-cigarettes for our website.

I replied as follows:

Dear xxx

Thanks for your email. Funnily enough, it is a subject we would like to address because I am conscious that an increasing number of cigarette smokers are using e-cigarettes.

I did mention the subject on my blog last year and that attracted quite a lot of comment, which opened my eyes a bit. It was interesting, to me, how strongly people felt about e-cigarettes and I was impressed that that there is quite a community of consumers that is quite active on blogs and forums.

What I noticed was there are three distinct groups:

1. Consumers of e-cigarettes who have given up tobacco and regard tobacco consumers as "unhealthy" or "losers"
2. Hard core cigarette smokers who consider consumers of e-cigarettes to have "sold out"
3. Cigarette smokers who find e-cigarettes a useful alternative in situations (eg pubs, public transport) where they are not allowed to light up

No 3 appears to be largest group and it's that group that interests Forest.

It's not an area I know much about so any information/articles etc would be useful and I would be happy to link to your site, although we have to be careful not to promote any particular brand.

I have also seen some e-cigs marketed in a way that seems designed to denigrate cigarettes (for health or other reasons) and for most of our supporters that is not particularly helpful because it reinforces some people's prejudice towards tobacco users.

In response I received the following 'article' that, until now, I have chosen not to publish, prefering to file it away in a folder marked 'E-Cigarettes: PR and Marketing':

Electronic nicotine imitation cigarettes could "help save the lives of millions of smokers", that's according to Elaine Keller, Vice President of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association.

"I believe e-cigarettes will prove to be a very important tool in an arsenal of Smoking Replacement Products that can be used to save the lives of millions of smokers who cannot or will not stop using nicotine,” she said.

“Nicotine does not cause lung disease, heart disease or cancer. There are people who are never going to be able to stop smoking nicotine and there are safer ways than smoking to take nicotine in," she added.

Elaine Keller stopped smoking 'traditional' cigarettes in 2009 and she firmly believes that her health has since improved. 

"I smoked for decades and I tried everything you could imagine to stop but every time I stopped using nicotine I became very ill. For me this[the e-cigarette] is a life safer, it's an answer to a prayer."

"Like a lot of folks who smoked for decades and tried dozens of times to quit without success, using every method imaginable, I see this invention as a life-saver.

“I used to be kept awake at night by the sound of my own wheezing. I used to cough up nasty stuff every morning. Now, the wheezing is gone and so is the cough.

“The best part is that I can laugh out loud without going into a fit of coughing," she added.
Some medical experts have called for the products to be regulated but Elaine Keller does not agree.

"They're not treating nicotine addiction. What they're doing is being used as a substitute for smoking which is obviously less harmful if you just look at what's happened with my own health."

I have nothing against e-cigarettes or any other smokeless tobacco product. Far from it. I believe in consumer choice and the more choice the better as long as it's informed and, in respect of tobacco, restricted to adults.

I want to learn more about smokeless tobacco products and Forest will, I hope, lead the way in providing consumers with as much information as possible so you can make an informed choice.

But I guarantee this. We will not turn our backs on smokers nor will we defend one group of tobacco consumers at the expense of another.

See: E-cigarettes to be regulated as tobacco products

Monday
Apr252011

Review of the week

Sunday
Apr242011

Homeward bound

We left Switzerland this morning, heading west via Basle.

Currently taking a pit stop in northern France en route to Calais where we will board a Eurotunnel train. After that it should take a couple of hours to drive home.

Normal service will be resumed shortly. (Lots to report, and announce.) In the meantime, and further to my previous post, I can reveal that:

Largely unknown by British skiers, Engelberg is one of Switzerland’s best kept secrets. At the end of an open sunny valley and dominated by the impressive 3,200m Mount Titlis, it is a large and friendly traditional village. The world’s first revolving cable car provides a unique way to view the varied terrain as you travel to the guaranteed snow on the glacier 2kms above the village. (Source: ski-direct.co.uk)

We didn't experience "the world's first revolving cable car", which was near the top of the mountain, but we did reach 6,000 feet via a more traditional cable car that appeared, during one stage, to be travelling almost vertically – at which point I shut my eyes, clung to the edge of the seat and swore quietly, much to the amusement of the woman sitting opposite.

That experience was followed by lunch on the sun terrace of an alpine lodge and a relaxing walk around a frozen lake that was just beginning to thaw. With thick snow on one side and acres of grass on the other, it offered a striking contrast.

The return journey down the mountainside was even more spectacular - and this time I kept my eyes open from start to finish.

Above: view from Mount Rigi which we visited on Thursday. We reached the summit via the mountain railway you can see in the picture.

Friday
Apr222011

Good Friday in Switzerland

Spent Wednesday in Zurich, jumping on trams, walking around the old town, and taking a boat across Lake Zurich.

Yesterday we headed for the hills, or one in particular. Rigi is 6,000 feet and we reached the summit via a rack-railway that was built in the 19th century. (Prior to that Queen Victoria was hoisted to the top on a sedan chair.)

The views of the snow-capped Alps were fabulous. If you want to you can stay the night at the summit - in a comfortable hotel, I should add - and watch the sun rise over the mountains.

Today we're going to Engelberg, a ski resort that offers the highest point in central Switzerland - around 10,000 feet.

More later.

Monday
Apr182011

Grand tour

Just arrived in Lausanne.

We caught the overnight ferry to Caen in northern France and spent the day driving through France to Switzerland.

Tomorrow we're driving to Zurich where we'll be based for the rest of the week.

It's 24 years since I visited Zurich. From what I remember I'm looking forward to going back.

Saturday
Apr162011

Review of the week

Thursday
Apr142011

Two good reasons to change the licensing laws

I've had time to think these past few days.

First there was the eight-hour round trip to Blackpool. Then there were two more car journeys, 90 minutes each way, to and from Heathrow, and the flight to Vienna (although I spent most of that reading Brian Moore's autobiography Beware Of The Dog).

When I wasn't reading I was thinking about the Clubs & Institute Union and the difficult if not impossible task of reviving the fortunes of working mens' clubs.

I've also been thinking about the issue of teenagers and alcohol.

Personally, I don't have a problem with teenagers drinking alcohol in moderation. Like me, I'm sure many of you were given the odd glass of wine or beer at home or perhaps you slipped into a pub with your friends and bought one or two pints of beer, a vodka orange, or even a Bacardi and coke. At the age of 14 I was a Tartan Special man, sometimes Newcastle Brown. (Don't worry, my taste buds improved, eventually.)

We didn't go into pubs very often but we knew the ones where we could get served and I don't remember anyone getting drunk for three simple reasons: the landlord wouldn't have allowed it, we didn't want to draw attention to ourselves, and we didn't have the money.

We were in the pub – that was good enough for us. In fact, the only time we did get drunk was at parties in other people's homes when their parents were away and we were unsupervised.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds are going to drink anyway and it's better for them to drink in a controlled environment than in the street or a nearby park.

So how's this for an idea – change the licensing laws so that private members' clubs can apply for a licence to serve alcohol to anyone aged 16+. Suddenly, they would seem a whole lot more relevant and enticing to younger people.

Pubs will object (level playing field and all that) and health campaigners will have a heart attack, but I think it's a way to revive our community clubs and give children aged 16-18 an acceptable place to drink, other than the home. Who knows, they may even develop a lifelong commitment to the place.

It will never happen, I know that, but as a parent I would take comfort from the fact that my children were learning to drink in safe, sociable surroundings.

Tom Miers has just written an article for The Free Society on a related issue. See: The government's licensing laws treat us all like children

Wednesday
Apr132011

Austrian Tobacco Forum 2011

Guest post by Dave Atherton:

Yes, the unholy trinity of Clark, Snowdon and Atherton were in Austria for the Tabakforum Osterriech 2011 (Austrian Tobacco Forum) in Altengbach, 35kms outside Vienna. I was looking for Julie Andrews to descend from the hills and waiters in lederhosen, so picturesque were the wooded hillsides.

The main purpose of the forum was a discussion with a range of interested parties from Austria and Germany how to fight the smoking ban mania which is now engulfing Europe. (I see Poland has succumbed to a ban and Hungary will be joining them soon.)

Walking into the hotel on Sunday I found the bar and restaurant were adjacent to reception. There were spherical glass implements on all the tables and I had to be reminded they were in fact ashtrays. Like a boy who has been promised a day out at Alton Towers, a visit to the bar was a must and even at dinner no-one minded if you smoked. There was a non-smoking section anyway, strangely not quite full.

The main business was on Monday and after the introductions by the excellent Klaus Fischer it was into the speeches. The first person to speak was Walter Wippersberg, an Austrian professor of film, who went into the history of smoking bans and associated authoritarianism – and, yes, he did mention the war.

I was the second speaker and covered the devastation of the hospitality trade in the UK, the science of passive smoking and the European Union dimension. Then it the turn of my old friend from Munich, Bodo Meinsen, who had invited me to Bavaria to speak six months ago. Chris Snowdon was excellent on the similarities of tobacco control with alcohol prohibition in the USA. Simon wrapped things up with a few words about Forest and the need to support the consumer.

The conference was well-timed. Anti-smoking campaigners in Austria are said to be planning a petition calling for a comprehensive smoking ban. They need 100,000 signatures for the Government to consider it. The good news is that before Christmas tobacconists in Austria organised their own petition (in response to the EU's Tobacco Product Directive). Out of a population of eight million, one million Austrians signed it.

If only consumers in the UK were equally motivated.

PS. Thanks to Dave for the above post. What he doesn't mention is that he missed not only his original flight to Vienna but there was a problem with his return flight too.

Update – Dave writes:

The Tube was playing up on Sunday so I missed my flight and had to go by British Airways.

I got to the airport in time on Tuesday after getting up at 4.00am. My lady driver was obviously taught by Nicky Lauder. She makes me look slow.

As I had missed the Austrian Airways flight on Sunday they cancelled my return flight and I had to book a new flight via EasyJet.

I can laugh now but not yesterday.