Category Archives: rants

  • 0

Good news, but don’t relax

By now you probably all know how much I hate the European Union’s idiotic Tobacco Products Directive. Actually I hate almost everything about the EU, but the TPD is definitely the rancid icing on that particular cake of shit. I can only think of one positive thing to say about it, which is that it’s not quite as bad as what the FDA is doing on the other side of the Atlantic.

The FDA’s Deeming Regulations are a classic example of why anyone who wants to regulate things probably shouldn’t be allowed to. Imagine what would happen if you got a load of hyperactive monkeys, fed them laxatives then gave them a big box of those letter-shaped fridge magnets to play with; well, that’s the Deeming Regs. They truly are insane, and until yesterday morning everyone assumed they were going to wipe out the entire US e-cig market next November.

Well, that isn’t going to happen – not next year, anyway. The FDA’s new Commissioner, Dr Scott Gottlieb, announced on Friday that he’s planning a new tobacco control strategy and wants enough time to get it right. Because he thinks vaping might have a part to play in that strategy – which is definitely good news – he’s pushing back the deadline for product authorisations from November 2018 to August 2022. It still won’t be legal to put any new products on the market without spending about six months and eleventy squillion dollars on paperwork first, but at least all the existing stuff can stay in the shops for another four years.

Understandably, US vapers are quite happy about this; Armageddon just got kicked a little bit further down the road. A couple of celebratory drinks are definitely in order. But this is not the end of the story. There are still plenty of massive problems with the Deeming Regs, and while the deadline extension was welcome news, other parts of Gottlieb’s speech weren’t so reassuring. So while vaping advocates have something to feel good about today, we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball.

Someone, dunno who, has posted a more detailed analysis of Gottlieb’s announcement on the Black Note blog. I’d suggest everyone has a read of that to remind themselves what’s still at stake. Then crack open another cold one and celebrate – but when your hangover clears up tomorrow afternoon, get ready to continue the fight. Because it’s not over yet.


  • 30

Dear Public Health: This is why we’re angry

A few days ago I was talking to someone who works in public health. This person is genuinely well-meaning, and seemed upset at the amount of hostility they’re seeing from vapers. Why, they wondered, are we all so angry at them? Don’t we realise that public health activists are trying to help us?

Their hurt and disappointment were so obvious and real that I’d have needed a heart of stone not to laugh. Almost since the first electronic cigarettes appeared on the market, vaping has been under sustained assault from the public health sector. So far their efforts have resulted in a swathe of sin taxes and vaping bans across the USA; the FDA and European Union have imposed draconian regulations that threaten to wipe out the majority of products, choke innovation and make what survives far more expensive; the media is filled with scaremongering stories based on the flimsiest of science; and vapers themselves have been belittled, slandered and insulted. How did they expect us to feel?

Unfortunately, this person seemed to be completely blind to how their own behaviour looks from a vaper’s point of view – and going by the aggrieved complaints from many of their colleagues, they’re far from alone. Just to set the record straight I thought I’d set out why the public health profession is so unpopular with vapers. Settle down in your comfiest chair; this could take a while.

Vapers think public health are paternalistic

It would not be exaggerating to say that a paternalistic attitude dominates the public health sector. The focus is on making people behave the way public health think we should behave, often through coercive means such as legislation or punitive taxes – “supporting people to make healthier choices,” in the doublespeak of the profession.

This attitude suggests that many in public health don’t really understand what makes people tick. Most of us enjoy the feeling of achievement when we do something for ourselves, whether it’s as trivial as baking a loaf or as life-changing as giving up smoking. We like to feel capable and in control; outside the narrow field of identity politics, thinking of yourself as a helpless victim has little appeal.

Vaping gives smokers control. Most smokers know that they should quit, even if they don’t particularly want to, and e-cigarettes give them a way to do so without having to struggle through it or go to a stop smoking service as a supplicant, begging for help to do something they can’t do on their own.

Talk to a vaper who has fully switched, and listen to what they say. More importantly, listen to how they say it. They’ll be positive and upbeat. They will tell you that switching wasn’t difficult; often they’ll say that they suddenly realised it had been days since they smoked a cigarette. What shines through is that they’re rightfully proud of their achievement. They decided to do something, and they went ahead and did it. On their own. Without help.

And now public health want to take that away. Tobacco controllers are elbowing their way into the vaping scene, issuing proclamations on how e-cigarettes should be used and how people should be using them. Britain’s Royal Society for Public Health issued a press release showcasing this last Friday when they complained that, by not screening their customers and refusing to sell to non-smokers, vape shops were ignoring a code of conduct that 95% of them haven’t even signed up to. Of course this causes resentment.

Vapers think public health are dishonest

Vapers perceive public health as either careless with the truth or actively dishonest. A common complaint is that the vapour products industry is deliberately conflated with the tobacco industry as a scaremongering tactic. The reality is that the vast majority of products on the market are made by small and medium independent businesses. Nevertheless, vapers are subjected to campaigns like this:

The likes and retweets this tweet gained can be disregarded; they came almost exclusively from public health, politicians and assorted activists. It’s more illuminating to look at the replies. There were 34 of these, and only one was positive. The other 33 ranged from constructive criticism to open hostility.

It’s easy – and lazy – to lump vaping in with the tobacco industry, and the FDA’s decree that vapour products are tobacco products gives doing so a veneer of legitimacy. It’s also intellectually dishonest, though, because the products don’t contain any tobacco – and vapers know this. Among vapers, attitudes to the tobacco industry vary immensely; some share public health’s antipathy to it, while others do not. What all vapers have in common is that they resent being labelled as industry shills.

Unfortunately, this has become something of a default argument for many in public health. If you advocate for vaping online – even if you’re purely a consumer – it won’t be long before someone rudely accuses you of taking tobacco industry money:

These insults draw an overwhelmingly negative, and often angry, response from vapers.

I know almost all the prominent UK-based vaping advocates. I’ve met them, drunk beer with them, stumbled around Warsaw at three in the morning looking for a kebab with them. We are just ordinary people who advocate for vaping because we believe in its potential as a harm reduction method. We are definitely not industry shills or paid Astroturf, and it’s infuriating to be smeared with that accusation simply because someone would rather discredit us than listen to what we have to say.

Many vapers also suspect that public health researchers are carrying out fraudulent research. In many cases simple incompetence is a more likely explanation, but some experiments do seem to be set up to obtain the “right” answer. James Pankow of Portland State University first infuriated vapers when his research on formaldehyde, published in the NEJM and described by one vaper as “ass hattery”, turned out to have been fatally flawed. In a subsequent study he went on to “find” benzene in e-cigarette vapour, which may not be surprising as he had added huge amounts of benzoic acid to the liquid he used. This attracted critical blog posts and more hostile comments.

Vapers think public health are arrogant and pushy

Public health didn’t invent e-cigarettes. They didn’t persuade millions of smokers all over the world to cut down or quit by switching to a much less harmful alternative. But now they’re trying to crash the party and take over. They want to tell us where we can vape and what flavours we should be allowed. They’re demanding that electronic cigarettes are turned into a medicalised quit aid, and complaining that people actually enjoy using them. To a vaper this looks an awful lot like sour grapes.

A common complaint is that public health refuse to listen. Many activists insist on telling vapers how they think e-cigarettes work and how they should be used, instead of asking how they really work and how they’re actually used. Australian sociologist Simon Chapman is frequently guilty of this, and his articles and blogs tend to attract large amounts of adverse comments from vapers. A regular gripe – one that’s also frequently directed against Glantz – is that Chapman is prone to deleting comments he can’t answer.

In fact, a refusal to engage with vapers is characteristic of public health – and it’s making people angry. Public health’s interest in vaping is almost exclusively focused on imposing new restrictions and taxes, or on co-opting electronic cigarettes to suit their own goals. The people most affected by this are vapers themselves – but we almost never appear on public health’s list of “stakeholders”. Any vaper who doesn’t show them the deference they feel entitled to is generally ignored or, on social media, blocked. It is incredibly annoying when someone starts trying to rearrange your life, but doesn’t even have the courtesy to talk to you about it.

Vapers think public health are self-serving

Many vapers believe that public health are more concerned with their own prestige and careers than with actually helping smokers. A 2014 report from UCSF, partly authored by Stanton Glantz, began its executive summary as follows:

“California’s position as a leader in tobacco control is under threat”

Vapers don’t care about California’s position as a leader in tobacco control. They just want to be able to buy the products that have replaced cigarettes in their lives, and they get annoyed when their well-being is given a lower priority than the ego of Californian anti-tobacco activists. The UCSF report was strongly attacked by Not Blowing Smoke, a consumer advocacy group based in the East Bay, which – like many vapers – links California’s extreme hostility to e-cigarettes with the state’s vulnerability to falling Master Settlement Agreement funding. Not Blowing Smoke has been referred to as astroturf. It is no such thing; it’s run by Stefan Didak, a former smoker and current vaper, who established it with his own money and runs it in his spare time.

E-cigarette advocates are not being paid for what they do. People who work in public health are being paid, and many vapers think that they’re more concerned about preserving their jobs and funding than about actually eliminating smoking. This may be unfair, but it isn’t an unreasonable conclusion given the ferocious hostility to vaping shown by many in the sector. Fair or not, many people believe it.

Vapers think public health despise us

Some prominent figures in public health seem to revel in being loathed by the public. For example, at the recent World Congress on Public Health, Professor Martin McKee – an outspoken anti-vaper – apparently said “Enemy of the people is a label we should aspire to as heroes of public health”.

Predictably, the reaction to this – largely from vapers – was furious; comments ranged from “petulant tyranny” through “useless, greedy sociopaths” to an image of a firing squad.

It’s easy to write McKee off as an ignorant loudmouth, but where was the condemnation from his professional colleagues? Simple: There wasn’t any. This gives vapers the impression that McKee’s opinion is acceptable or even mainstream in public health – and if public health activists aspire to be our enemies, why shouldn’t we hate them? The failure of the majority in public health to condemn the behaviour of the extremists is tarring the whole profession with the same brush.

In one notorious incident in September 2014 the president of the UK’s Faculty of Public Health, John Ashton, launched a drunken rant on Twitter in which he hurled obscenities at vapers. Although Ashton later claimed he had been provoked, his timeline appeared to show that he had been seeking out vapers to abuse. This caused a huge amount of anger, expressed on social media, in forums, through blogs and in numerous complaints to FPH. However, FPH took no action for almost two weeks; then, after a perfunctory “inquiry”, Ashton was allowed to continue as president.

Throughout Ashton’s brief and voluntary leave of absence – he wasn’t even suspended – and the inquiry, numerous public health activists rallied round him. Media coverage was shaped by comments from his colleagues and put the blame on vapers despite the timestamp of tweets clearly showing that Ashton had initiated the incident. His deliberate abuse of members of the public was brushed aside or openly defended.  Ashton’s erratic and obnoxious behaviour – in one bizarre interview he was told he sounded like a bloke in a bar – and the staunch support he received from across the public health sector, generated enormous hostility from vapers.

On another occasion Lorien Jollye, who at the time was a waitress in a Cornish café, submitted a letter to The Lancet calling for a more inclusive debate on vaping. Instead she got an arrogant and dismissive reply from Stanton Glantz, Martin McKee, Simon Chapman and Mike Daube. This was seen as a crude attempt to shout down an unpaid consumer advocate, and provoked more blogs.

Vapers have, increasingly, had enough

Some figures in public health have been detested by vapers for years. Stanton Glantz is particularly unpopular; most vapers see him as an unqualified zealot with a poor grasp of science, and any research he does is usually dismissed (generally with good reason) as junk.

Glantz is so unpopular among vapers that a parody Twitter account has been created to mock him.

Martin McKee and Simon Chapman are almost as unpopular as Glantz, with Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Tom Frieden at the CDC and Mitch Zeller of the FDA not far behind. There are many more in the vapers’ pantheon of hate figures, all of whom have richly earned their places.

However, the animosity held by vapers towards public health is becoming less tightly focused and is spreading to take in the whole field of public health activism. Even organisations that were previously seen as somewhat supportive of vaping are now attracting more hostility. Where vapers used to discuss in the hope of reaching a compromise, they increasingly feel that public health works on a ratchet principle – they will push for restrictions, then when these are achieved the goalposts are shifted and a new set of demands is issued. Vapers are coming to believe that any accommodation they reach with public health will simply be a step on the road to full prohibition.

The anger caused by public health’s approach to e-cigarettes is spilling over. Many vapers are now openly hostile to any public health campaign aimed at regulating people’s lifestyles – the global push for sugar taxes, for example. With millions of vapers around the world, and their numbers growing daily, further embedding the “them and us” attitude that’s emerging will reduce public health’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public – and they will only have themselves to blame.


  • 10

Public Health – Medicine’s mad dogs

Public health activists used to give valuable, life-saving advice, and in many parts of the world they still do: Don’t shit upstream from the village, because it’ll foul the drinking water; don’t let standing water accumulate, because mosquitoes will breed in it; vaccinate your kids, because it will protect them from disease; stay away from the dog that’s walking stiffly and starting to drool, because it’s rabid. This is work that has to be done, and it’s public health organisations who need to do it.

Unfortunately, in the developed world public health has gone horribly wrong. It’s mutated from a field of medicine and science dedicated to preventing disease, and become a crusading movement that’s determined to impose their vision of an ultra-healthy lifestyle on the entire population – whether we want it or not. Not a day goes past without another terrifying revelation in the newspapers about some food (always something tasty; never quinoa or kale) that will kill us if we don’t immediately stop eating it.

Dietary disasters

The few foods that public health do permit us have to be prepared in increasingly specific ways, carefully chosen to eliminate any vestige of flavour. Do you like toast? Then “go for gold,” because if you leave it in the toaster until it browns you’ll die of acrylamide-induced cancer. No, never mind that golden toast just tastes like warm, dry bread; your enjoyment is not important. Oh, did I say dry? That’s right; if you butter it you’ll get diabetes.

The “go for gold” rule also applies to roast potatoes, by the way, even though they taste much better when they’re brown and crispy round the edges. I’m just waiting for the press release that says using goose fat to add some flavour to your horrible, pallid undercooked spuds will cause some other lethal disease. Leprosy, maybe?

Attacking alcohol

Don’t drink alcohol, because there’s no safe level. If you do drink alcohol then restrict yourself to 14 units a week. Men can’t handle any more alcohol than women despite being an average of 35% heavier – unless the woman is pregnant or, according to a frenzied anti-alcohol decree from America’s CDC, “pre-pregnant”. Yes, I know that pre-pregnant is just another way of saying not pregnant, but that isn’t how CDC see it. If you’re not pregnant, but you’re capable of getting pregnant, then you’re pre-pregnant and you shouldn’t ever drink any alcohol at all. Feel like ignoring the CDC? It’s your funeral, but take the advice of Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, and think about breast cancer every time you pour a glass of wine.

If you drink more than three pints in one session you probably have an alcohol problem, because this is binge drinking. Yes, really. When I was in the Army we thought binge drinking was going to the NAAFI bar for a couple on Friday night, then next thing you know it’s Tuesday and you’re in a Moroccan police cell, naked except for one sock you don’t recognise. Apparently we were wrong.

Binge drinking is on the rise, of course. So is the number of people who drink more than the government’s recommended limit every week. According to public health this is because the UK is awash in cheap alcohol. I live in Germany, and trust me on this: No matter what public health say, there’s no such thing as cheap alcohol in the UK. This is almost certainly why alcohol consumption is actually falling, and has been for years. Incidentally, the UK’s recommended weekly alcohol limit has fallen from 50 units a week to 14 in my lifetime. Could that be why more people are exceeding it? Just a thought.

Sugar, sugar

Sugar’s an addictive toxin that food companies use as cheap filler, presumably because they’ve run out of actual cheap fillers like flour and potatoes, and we’re all going to die of obesity. After all, two-thirds of us are overweight and obese. They always say “overweight and obese” because the number who’re actually obese isn’t nearly as impressive – less than a quarter – and of course that number isn’t actually rising, but it’s a good excuse to attack more tasty stuff. Now the UK is getting a “sugar tax” applied to soft drinks, because fuck poor people. It won’t reduce obesity, of course – sugar and fat taxes never do – but it was never about obesity anyway. Sweetened drinks taste good, so of course public health hate them.

Always the Sun

Don’t go out in the sun because it’ll give you cancer. If you must go out in the sun wear long sleeves, a hat and SPF 9,000 sunblock on any exposed skin. Sunlight is bad for you, except of course for the fact that exposure to sunlight is how our bodies synthesise Vitamin D. It probably isn’t coincidence that cases of rickets – Vitamin D deficiency – in the UK have spiked back to levels last seen over half a century ago, but never mind the details; sunlight is bad.

As I mentioned before, it’s always nice things that kill you. Nobody is warning us about the dangers of yoga or grotty, tedious vegetables. Oh no; it’s always sunbathing, beer and bacon the public health zealots turn their guns on. It’s always the enjoyable things they want us to give up. It’s almost enough to make you suspect that the real motivation isn’t to make our lives longer; it’s to make them more miserable. This isn’t a far-fetched conspiracy theory either, because there’s a surprising level of overlap between public health organisations and old-style temperance groups. Nineteenth-century Christian Socialism sprouted a vigorous growth of lifestyle Puritanism, and sadly it hasn’t been eradicated yet.

Most people, of course, are not Puritans and don’t want to be dictated to by the minority who are. That’s probably why hostility to the nanny state seems to be growing. Personally, my own resentment boiled over long ago. By this point I hate the public health establishment so much that, if I die of something because I dismissed their advice – bacon cancer, say, or toast diabetes – I’ll count that as a moral victory. They tried to keep me alive by forcing me to stop eating toast, but failed? I win; take that, you miserable killjoys.

Go forth and multiply

But it’s not too late for public health to redeem themselves. There is still work for them to do. That work isn’t in the rich west, of course. Here, life expectancy is at an all-time high and infant mortality at an all-time low. Diseases that used to kill or cripple millions vanished decades ago. Our food is safe, our water is clean and our lifestyles are healthy. If we really have time to worry about the cancerous properties of toast, we’ve basically won.

No, public health’s work is in the developing world. That’s where diarrhoea still kills millions of children, and measles is as big a scourge as malaria. That’s where sinister, demented holy men tell mothers that vaccination is a western plot. That’s where the bites of rabid dogs send 65,000 people a year to a screaming, insane death. That’s where the poor are dying because they aren’t getting the right advice. So pack your bags, public health, and go forth to save lives. Go to Africa and Asia, tour the villages and save the people. They need you.

We don’t. So piss off and leave us alone.

 

 


  • 3

So irony it’s rusting

I read lots of stuff. From academic papers to the sort of shiny thriller that airport bookstalls specialise in, if it contains words I’m usually willing to give it a shot. Sometimes I read to gain knowledge, sometimes for pleasure and sometimes because it’s a reliable way to pass the time on long journeys. Usually I find reading to be extremely enjoyable and relaxing. Just occasionally, however, I read something that’s so stunningly, balls-out stupid that the words reach out into my head and flip the big red switch marked “Rage”. So, with that, let’s meet Jacqueline Lee of the University of California, Riverside.

Apart from the fact that she likes to write opinion pieces for The Highlander, UC Riverside’s student journal, I know very little about Jacqueline Lee. That doesn’t matter though, because there’s one thing I do know which made me instantly lose any interest in finding out more – she’s a fucking moron.

That may sound harsh, but I think I can justify it pretty easily. All the evidence you need is in a piece Lee wrote for today’s edition of The Highlander, in which she amply demonstrates her ignorance, arrogance and utter lack of reading comprehension. The topic of the article – I use the term loosely – is vaping and marijuana, and while I’m no expert on the weed side of things her pronouncements on vaping are among the most stupid things I’ve ever read.

Even her initial description of vaping is about as wrong as it’s possible to be. Apparently it’s a way “to get their nicotine fix instead of from cigarettes via nicotine-infused oils like peanut oil.” What? Yes, the ignorant – and many linguistically-challenged Chinese vendors – often call e-liquid oil. But peanut oil? She’s just made that up, hasn’t she? Pulled it, warm and steaming, straight out of her arse. She has invented it. She has lied, simply because she was too stupid, lazy or both to do any proper research.

And it just gets worse from there. Thermal degradation – which, according to Lee, is “the ability to alter the temperature of the heated natural oil” – apparently causes coil malfunctions, which then lead to explosions. Again this is complete invention. We all know why e-cigarettes occasionally explode, and it has bugger all to do with the tank being full of hot peanut oil. Lee is inventing hazards out of nowhere, then trying to pass it off as fact by mentioning papers which she doesn’t bother to link (probably because they don’t say what she claims they do).

Because she hasn’t made the effort to find out that e-liquid is not oil, Lee then starts wittering about how the “suggested oil temperature” is similar to what’s considered a dangerous smoke point when cooking. It’s very true that if you overheat oil when cooking you can end up inhaling dangerous breakdown products. Lee says the same can happen when you’re vaping, which of course isn’t true because it’s not oil, you fucking moron.

Finally, and unforgivably, she says this:

This demonstrates that vaping could potentially be just as bad for lungs as cigarettes are — especially considering that cigarettes are not as likely to randomly explode.

With this bollocks, Lee crosses the line between pathetic imbecile and malignant piece of shit. She’s basically encouraging people to keep smoking. I have no idea what UC Riverside will think of this, seeing as their reputation is built on being a research university; surely they won’t be too happy that their student magazine is printing dishonest shite that’s completely untouched by research of any kind. Expecially given the massive irony of the piece’s title:

On the lack of medical research for e-cigarettes and marijuana

Anyway, I have no idea if Jacqueline Lee will ever see this post, but if you are reading it, Jacqueline, you’re a despicable piece of shit. Stop writing; the internet doesn’t need your useless, misleading bollocks.


  • 105

It’s been great, mech mods, but it’s time to say goodbye

A couple of years ago you’d rarely see me without one of my FastTech Nemesis clones in my hand. Mech mods were basically all I used; none of the regulated devices on the market at the time could deliver the power I liked or handle the coils I was building. My first mech was a K-100, one of those odd little telescopic things that cost hardly anything but nevertheless worked surprisingly well. Then I bought my first Nemesis clone, and soon I had three of them. I thought they were great, and I would have been lost without them. So would many others; mech mods played an important role in the development of vaping, showing that it was possible to do a lot better than the wispy clouds that emerged from the early cigalikes.

But now it’s time for them to fade into the sunset. There is no place for mech mods any more, and I’d be much happier if they all disappeared from the shelves tomorrow.

If you read my blogs regularly you’ll know that I am not, in general, a fan of restricting consumer choices. In an ideal world I’d much rather leave people to make their own decisions instead of being coerced into making the officially approved one – you know, what public health usually refer to as “supporting healthier choices” when they really mean punishing choices they don’t like. I don’t regret buying any of my mech mods and, although I haven’t used one since early 2015, I remember them fondly. Sadly, because this is not an ideal world, they’ve now become a massive liability.

Safety is relative

Mech mods are not, in the big scheme of things, dangerous. You’re far less likely to be injured by your mech mod than you are by your car, bread knife or Galaxy Note 7. Unfortunately the media don’t care about traffic accidents, kitchen utensils or phones. They do care about e-cigarettes. And that means every time a mech mod goes badly wrong it’s going to get global press coverage. Even more unfortunately, while mechs are safer than many objects we cheerfully surround ourselves with on a daily basis they’re a lot less safe than any other variety of e-cig – and those with hybrid connectors are the least safe of all.

In expert hands a mech is pretty safe. If you understand battery safety, follow sensible precautions when building coils and keep in mind that Ohm’s Law is a law not a guideline, the chances of a battery explosion are minimal. The problem is that if you don’t know what you’re doing it becomes a lot easier to screw up, overload your battery and send it into thermal runaway – and, while I know some of you are going to hate me for saying this, if you’re running sub-0.1Ω builds on a mech you don’t know what you’re doing. That sort of setup is just tiny fractions of an ohm away from a hard short and, no matter how careful you think you’re being, it’s going to put immense stress on your battery. The problem is that, if you push the battery past its limits, the average mech mod is a uniquely unfortunate shape. It’s basically a metal tube with screw-in end caps, and with a battery venting inside it something – probably the bottom end cap – is almost certainly going to fail. When that happens a very large volume of hot gas will rush out of the opening, Ohm’s Law is replaced by Newton’s, and the tube becomes a rocket. That sucks for the user, because more likely than not it’s a rocket that’s pointing right at his face.

No responsible vaper is going to deny that using a mech mod with an ultra-low resistance build carries a degree of risk. What benefits does the vaper get in return for this risk? Zero. Absolutely nothing. A mech can do nothing that a modern regulated mod can’t. Mech mods became popular because their lack of circuits let them bypass the serious power limits that held back early electronic cigarettes; at a time when a top of the line variable power mod wouldn’t fire below 1Ω and had a maximum power output of 12W, mechs were the only game in town for serious vapers. But now they’re simply outclassed. Vape shops are full of affordable mods that will fire at 0.05Ω and put out 100W – and they’ll do that all day with basically zero chance of blowing up. They have an extensive range of built-in safety features that intercept any danger before the battery starts cooking, and they also deliver a more consistent vape.

A dangerous fashion

Unfortunately, mechs remain fashionable among a small minority of vapers. Vaping was invented as an alternative to smoking and that’s still how most of us see it; almost all the vapers I know fall into that category and I can’t think of a single one who still regularly uses a mech. We’ve all enthusiastically adopted the new generation of powerful regulated mods, because as well as being infinitely safer they’re also just better in every conceivable way. Mainstream vapers are not at risk of blowing themselves up, unless they do stupid stuff like carry loose batteries in their pocket – and if anyone insists on doing that then I, for one, am happy to let Darwin claim another slightly charred victim.

No, the problem is the people who vape so they can blow clouds or do tricks. If somebody just wants to see how much liquid they can waste, or suck vapour into their own ears, that’s fine; I’m a libertarian and have no interest in stopping them. I only wish they didn’t tend to be such immature dicks – and I especially wish that an obsession with mech mods wasn’t a major part of their dickishness. For example I’ve just watched a video by a certain well-known vaper who demonstrated his 0.09Ω build on a mech, and this cretin has admirers. There are people out there who watch all his videos and take his advice. Do not take his advice. He is a clown, and no matter how expert he sounds, the builds he is demonstrating are not safe.

I have no idea why these vapers still like mechs so much. There seems to be a myth that they deliver “raw power”, but power is not steak. It doesn’t come in well done, medium rare and raw. It’s just power, and a mech can’t deliver anywhere close to as much as a modern regulated mod can. The YouTube idiot’s 0.09Ω build, pushing a top of the line battery right to its safe discharge limit, would result in around 75 watts of power at the coil. My Wismec RX200 will punch out over three times that in perfect safety, and you can pick one up from FastTech for $40.

If idiots want to blow themselves up I don’t particularly care. The world is not short of idiots, so the occasional self-immolation of one is no great loss. What I do care about is that their immaturity and dangerous antics are threatening to bring down even harsher regulations on the rest of us. There was a news story two days ago about an Andrew Hall of Pocatello, Idaho, who managed to blow out nine of his own teeth with – you guessed it – a mech mod. Images of its blackened wreckage show that it was a hybrid, and there are unconfirmed reports that he was running a 0.06Ω build on it. There is no 18650 battery on the market that can safely handle the sort of stress a build like that imposes, so if you build this low an explosion is basically just a matter of time. Maybe you think your extreme build is an exception because you know what you’re doing. Trust me; no you don’t. I’m sure the luckless Mr Hall will insist that he knew what he was doing, but clearly he didn’t because he blew his fucking teeth out.

Obviously we can say that this is not a problem with e-cigs; it’s a problem with people who mess with things they don’t understand. Unfortunately that’s irrelevant. The media don’t know that this is only an issue with obsolete technology; I watched a news report about Andrew Hall that used an image of an eVic VTC – a regulated, safe mod – as the backdrop. The audience don’t know it either. And our loyal friends and allies in public health either don’t know it, or they know it but they don’t care. To them it’s just another excuse to demonise e-cigarettes and the people who use them.

Tough decisions

At this point so many idiots have blown themselves up, and generated so much bad publicity in the process, that if governments around the world decided to ban mech mods I wouldn’t raise more than a token protest. But that’s not going to happen. What might happen is that they ban all mods, because they can’t or won’t make a distinction between the safe modern ones and the potentially dangerous old junk. And that – the risk of known hazards with obsolete devices being used as an excuse for another crackdown – is why I now wish that mech mods would just quietly disappear.

So what’s to be done? What I’d like to be done is for manufacturers to realise that mech mods are a solution to a problem that just doesn’t exist any more, and to stop making them. I’d like vendors to realise that the small margin they make on some overpriced tube isn’t worth said tube’s potential to blow up a toddler and get the whole industry shut down. But, right now, I don’t think that’s very realistic. So instead I’m going to ask brick and mortar vendors to be very, very careful about who they sell mechs to. If someone comes in looking for their first e-cig and wants to buy a mech, don’t sell them one. Explain to them that regulated mods are a superior, and safer, alternative. If they insist, don’t give in; better to lose one sale than your business. In fact, any time somebody asks for a mech ask them why they want it. If the answer is “To chuck some sick cloudz,” tell them no. A regulated mod is better for that, too.

If they can convince you that a mech might be right for them – and I can’t honestly think of any reason why it might be, but never mind – quiz them on their electrical knowledge to make sure they can use it safely. If they say, “What’s Ohm’s Law?” don’t sell them the mod. If they don’t buy an appropriate battery along with it, or physically show you a suitable one they already own, don’t sell them the mod. I know this is hard advice for a small business to follow; I make my living by selling things too, and it’s painful to turn a customer away, but it is unconscionable to put a mech mod in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it.

As for online vendors, please just stop selling the damn things. You can’t vet the buyers and it simply isn’t worth the risk. Despite the growing scientific consensus that vaping really is a safer alternative to smoking, the regulatory threats against us just keep growing. Handing our opponents the ammunition to shoot us down with is bad enough; every time you sell a mech mod, you’re potentially handing them a grenade.


  • 1

Trump, Brexit and childish politics – The centre cannot hold

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

– WB Yeats, The Second Coming

 

I’m no fan of Donald Trump. He’s not a good businessman, I don’t think he’ll be a good president and all the evidence points to him being a far from satisfactory human being. But is his election the end of the world? I very much doubt it. Once in office he’ll be hemmed in by all the machinery of government, not to mention a Congress dominated by a GOP that, fundamentally, doesn’t really like him very much. None of his wilder proposals are going to happen, and his foreign policy ideas are actually a lot less likely to trigger a major war than Hillary Clinton’s hyper-interventionism would have been. I’d rather see a POTUS who’s too friendly with Putin than one who thinks shooting down Russian warplanes in the airspace of a Russian ally is a sane move.

Oh yes; Hillary. The ultimate Washington insider, who got to be the Democratic candidate for no real reason beyond it being her turn. A woman who, more than anyone else in the USA, is a symbol of the political establishment. An increasingly hereditary establishment, at that; if she’d won then four of the last five US presidents would have been provided by just two families. Perhaps we should wonder why people called Bush or Clinton – and, previously, Kennedy – seem to have access to high-level politics that resembles that granted by North Korea to people called Kim.

Anyway, I don’t support Trump, but Trump won. And in June the UK voted to leave the European Union, largely thanks to years of work by UKIP’s Nigel Farage. I don’t support UKIP either, although I am on the Brexit side of that argument. Next March the Front National’s Marine Le Pen will almost certainly win the first round of the French presidential election, and she has a growing chance of taking the presidency itself. Needless to say, I don’t support the Front National. In Germany, where I actually live, Frauke Petry’s Alternative für Deutschland increased its vote share by 200% in the past year and has displaced the Greens as Germany’s third party. I don’t support AfD (but, if the growing lawlessness on the streets of German towns isn’t cracked down on very hard and very soon, I’m open to reconsidering that). All over the western world, anti-establishment parties are on the rise. Why?

The internet’s infantile meltdown

Twitter today has been, to put it mildly, agitated. There have been blizzards of recriminations, oceans of tears and a sort of background wail of hysterical over-reaction. I mean, really; if someone’s talking about suicide because a deeply flawed, immensely rich career politician didn’t win an election, their survival chances probably weren’t high to start with. If you’re announcing to the world that you don’t feel safe in America since Trump clinched the election, I just can’t take you seriously. Apart from anything else you weren’t safe in America anyway; it has rates of violent crime without equal anywhere else in the developed world.

The other thing I’ve seen on Twitter today is a staggering level of racism unleashed by the Trump victory. Well of course. Trump was the racism candidate, right?

Oh wait.

racism

Reverse racism? No, just racism

There’s tons of this shit. Thousands of tweets. A massive flood of racism directed against white people. And however annoyed you might be about the result, this is not okay. Someone who says “I hate white people” is every bit as much a repulsive piece of shit – and every bit as much a racist – as someone who says “I hate brown people”.

Now, I realise that a lot of keyboard warriors are going to disagree with that. I’ve heard all the arguments about how it’s impossible to be racist against the majority ethnic group – and I don’t buy any of them. Racism is disliking or discriminating against someone because of their race, and if you don’t like white people you’re a racist. It’s that simple, and no amount of linguistic contortions will get you out of it. You may not like that, but it’s a fact.

Here’s another fact you’re not going to like: The prevalence, and acceptance by a significant minority of the population, of absurd bullshit like “You can’t be racist against white people” is why Trump won. If you’ve spent the last six months yelling that anyone who believes there are only two genders is a bigot, or that everything bad in the world is the fault of white people, you were working for the Trump campaign. Congratulations; the candidate you were helping got elected.

I don’t doubt for a moment that every racist in the USA voted for Trump. However that does not mean that everyone who voted for him is a racist. Not even everyone who voted for him because of his views on immigration is a racist. Being concerned about high levels of immigration is not a racist viewpoint; it’s actually the majority view in almost every country. Most people don’t mind sharing their society with incomers of different backgrounds, but they don’t want it to be changed by those incomers. And that’s reasonable. I’ve spent years in the Middle East and Asia, and I know what some of the societies that exist there are like. Making my own society even slightly more like those ones is something I am vehemently opposed to, because I don’t like those other societies or the cultural values that have made them what they are.

Wait, what? I don’t like the cultural values many recent immigrants bring with them? That must make me a racist, right? This is where it gets awkward. Because if the fact I think women, atheists and gays are human beings with the same rights as anyone else makes me some kind of right-wing extremist, I’m not actually going to lose any sleep over that.

Crying Wolf

Hillary Clinton’s supporters, and Bernie Sanders’s as well, used exactly the same tactics as the Remain campaign used in the UK early this summer: They poured out an endless stream of toxic effluent that could have been custom designed to alienate the very people whose votes they needed. Instead of listening to the concerns expressed by many, they simply screeched that those concerns were racist/transphobic/”problematic”/whatever and that anyone who had them was deplorable.

Racists really are deplorable, but the political left has splashed the accusation around so freely and indiscriminately that it doesn’t actually mean anything any more. The same applies to lots of other accusations of prejudice. There was a minor internet kerfuffle recently when some moron accused anyone who wouldn’t have a relationship with a trans person of being transphobic. This is so absurd that it shouldn’t even need a rebuttal. Yes, I’m sure some of those who wouldn’t date a trans person are transphobic, but most are not. Perhaps they just want a partner who’s biologically capable of bearing or fathering their children. It might even be as simple as a preference for a girlfriend who doesn’t have a penis, or a boyfriend who does. That’s purely a matter of personal taste; it certainly isn’t transphobia, and by claiming it is you just devalue the term. Oh, and make yourself look stupid.

For at least a decade and a half the left, at least in the UK and USA, has not engaged in political debate. Instead it’s tried to shut down debate by abusing and intimidating any dissenters into silence. It hasn’t worked, and it was never going to work. When you call the BNP anti-muslim extremists people will look at them, agree and support you – but if you call Maajid Nawaz an anti-muslim extremist people will just think you’re a twat.

Guess what? They’ll be right.

Playtime’s over

Politics is adult business, but for far too long, far too many people have behaved like children – screaming, throwing tantrums, and breaking their toys when they don’t get what they want. It needs to stop. Many on the left – and a few on the right; let’s not get too smug here – need to regain contact with reality. For too long, politics has been dominated by the concept of a centre-left consensus that never actually existed. It just appeared to exist, because anyone who dared to disagree with it was shouted down.

But the once-silent majority of ordinary, small-c conservative and largely decent people are tired of being shouted at, and they’ve started to push back. You can try to re-engage with them, understand their concerns and treat them as fellow humans, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. Or you can dial up the shrieks of “Racists! Fascists!! Stupid white people!!!” by another few hundred decibels. What do you think is most likely to win back their votes?

Yes, I said “Win back their votes”. The Brexit referendum was won because an awful lot of working-class, mainly northern Labour voters were fed up being told that everything they value is evil, stupid and wrong. As US election data emerges, it seems that Trump was pushed to victory by white voters who backed Obama in 2008 and 2012. Did they become racist because Obama was so terrible? I doubt it.

Obama hasn’t been an impressive president, but he’s not really been a bad one either. I was glad he beat McCain in 2008, because the alternative would have put Sarah Palin one heart palpitation away from the Oval Office. I was glad he beat Romney in 2012, because something in me screams at the thought of a president who believes in magic underwear. I don’t think the Obama administration will be looked back on with any great enthusiasm. Equally, though, the fact he was elected twice shows that America isn’t exactly the hateful, racist hellhole that the internet has spent all day telling me it is.

Protest works both ways

In the final analysis I don’t think many people voted for Trump. I suspect most of his electors voted against Clinton. High stakes for a protest vote? Perhaps. Personally I’d much rather have seen Gary Johnson win. But the demos is fickle and, when it decided it was time to smash the political establishment’s head in, Trump was the baseball bat it reached for. I doubt the orange one will be elected for a second term, and in fact I hope he isn’t. I hope that by 2020 the Republicans will have found a candidate who’s not either a religious maniac or a blundering idiot, and the Democrats will have turned up one who hasn’t elevated “progressive” dogma to a religion in its own right. Even better, perhaps the American people will be fed up enough of both traditional parties to elect a libertarian and finally make the USA as free as it always proclaims itself to be.

In the meantime we’ll have President Trump, and for better or worse we all need to accept that and get on with life. By all means campaign against his policies; most of them are nonsense anyway, and richly deserve protest. Go right ahead and work to get someone else elected in 2020. It’s even fine and honourable to take to the streets in protest if he tries to violate the rights of people in the USA or abroad.

But don’t indulge yourselves in the sort of endless petulant wailing that the die-hard Remainers have made Britain so thoroughly sick of. Don’t make fools of yourselves with cretinous, virtue-signalling hashtags like #notmypresident (Newsflash: The law says he is). Don’t protest against the fact of his election, because that’s how democracy works – the other side are allowed to win, too. And most of all, don’t spend the next four years shrieking “Racist! Fascist! White people!” at everyone who voted for him. You tried that already, and look what happened.

Yes, Trump’s an obnoxious idiot; but if you say things like “safe space”, “microaggression” and “cisgender” with a straight face, it’s your fault he got elected – because normal people are sick of your bullshit. Take responsibility for that, and learn from it, or your future will contain days a lot worse than today. Because if you keep telling ordinary people that they’re fascists, eventually they’ll believe you. Then, when a real fascist candidate comes along and offers to represent them, they will elect him. And that will be your fault too.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


  • 6
Stupid vaping products sold by stupid vendors

Let’s call time on stupid vendors

A few weeks ago I expressed some annoyance at vendors who were, in my opinion, being stupid. In this particular case it was a rash of morons selling “Pokéjuice”, a trademark-busting product that’s also an absolute gift to those who claim the industry is targeting children. I made some comments on Facebook and reported a couple of vendors to Trading Standards, but mostly what I did was annoy stupid people. I’m not exactly a stranger to annoying people, and it’s not like upsetting the stupid ones troubles my conscience, but it is pretty frustrating to raise problems like this and be met with a wall of baffled, stupid annoyance.

I don’t believe for a minute that any of the mainstream vapour product makers, or even the dreaded tobacco companies, are “marketing to children”, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to say the same about some of the more stupid independents. By all means make ice cream flavoured e-liquid. In fact I’m trying out a very nice strawberry vanilla ripple as I write this. Adults like ice cream too. But seriously, what the fuck is the justification for this?

icecream

Whether the industry is targeting children or not, people who want it shut down are claiming that it is. This is reality. Ignoring reality is not brave or clever; it’s stupid. When people accuse you of making products that appeal to children there is nothing smart about disguising your fairly pedestrian-looking small glass dripper bottle as a tub of ice cream. You are not being edgy, witty or ironic. You are being a dick.

Here’s something else about disguising your products as food: It’s against the law. If you’re tempted to sell something that’s packaged to look like a Cornetto, you might want to read this first. You’ve read it and you don’t agree with the law? Well, that’s just tough. Brexit has given the UK vaping industry a potential lifeline. If we play this the clever way we could get the EU’s idiotic TPD removed, and replaced with a set of sensible laws that ensure safety without banning whole categories of products. But if we want sensible laws the industry has to demonstrate that it can obey the law. If you don’t act like adults you won’t be treated like adults. You’ll get spanked – and frankly, if you’re selling Pokéjuice or the products pictured in this post, you deserve it.

A story about stupid vendors selling stupid products is now on BBC News. That’s a global news outlet. Do we really need negative stories, that seem to confirm everything the public health lobby has been saying, on global news right now? No, we do not. In a few weeks the WHO’s COP 7 conference will be taking place in New Delhi, and the prohibitionist maniacs who run that will be looking for any excuse to clamp down on vaping. Five stupid vape shop owners on Merseyside just handed them another one.

If you make products like the ones featured here, you are stupid. If you sell those products, you are stupid. If you continue to buy from a vape shop that sells those products, you are stupid. There are powerful people out there who want to shut down every vape shop and force you to buy medicalised cigalikes from a pharmacy. Guess what? They’re going to get their way, unless the people making, selling and buying this fucking rubbish stop being stupid.


  • 15

The World Hitler Organisation

The World Health Organisation’s stated objective is “the attainment by all people of the highest possible level of health”. This is a noble goal, and in the first decades of its history the WHO worked hard to achieve it. The organisation played a major role in eradicating smallpox, for example – the only human disease ever to be completely eliminated. It’s launched massive campaigns to vaccinate against a host of other plagues, and played a major part in malaria control. When the WHO was founded in 1948 it was supposed to be a force for good, a practical symbol of humanity’s better side to set against the horrors of Nazism.

So why is it now endorsing mass murderers?

A lot of people were somewhat taken aback in 2010 when WHO director Margaret Chan, a former home economics teacher from Hong Kong, praised North Korea for its success in combating obesity. Never mind that North Korea is a Stalinist hellhole, ruled by an insane hereditary dictator whose nuclear grandstanding threatens the stability of the whole of Asia. Never mind that the anti-obesity strategy that so impresses Chan consists of making it illegal for citizens to grow their own food, forcing them to rely on a ludicrously inefficient state farming sector and triggering a series of devastating famines that have killed up to 15% of the country’s population over the past two decades. Never mind that North Koreans are so badly malnourished that they are, on average, three inches shorter than their South Korean relatives. Chan didn’t see any chubsters when she visited Pyongyang, apart from the grotesquely bloated Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, so that makes the demented regime worthy of praise in the WHO’s eyes.

But now Chan has been upstaged by some of her subordinates. Doctor Vera da Costa e Silva is a Brazilian public health administrator who’s specialised in tobacco control since the mid-1990s, and for the last two years she’s been head of the secretariat of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. You may have heard of FCTC before; they’re the bunch of authoritarian crackpots who think Interpol are agents of Big Tobacco, and who specialise in barring the press and public from their conferences. Vera da Costa claims to be pursuing an “open door policy” as FCTC head, but unless you’re a member of the tobacco control industry, just try to find out what FCTC are actually up to and that door will be firmly slammed in your face.

Anyway, today da Costa tweeted this:

Capture

Rodrigo Duterte has been president of the Philippines since this July, and he’s a fucking maniac. Since his election he’s told the police to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy against drug dealers and urged the population to murder addicts. In the last three months around 4,000 Filipino citizens have been killed, two-thirds of them by vigilantes and most of the rest by police death squads. Duterte is now proudly comparing himself to Hitler, and threatening to withdraw from the UN after it protested at the wave of slaughter he’s unleashed on his country. Meanwhile the UN’s own health agency is praising him for his work on tobacco control.

The WHO has become monomaniacal about tobacco. In June one of da Costa’s equally insane colleagues, Elizabeth Hoff, complained that the Syrian government isn’t doing enough to make smoking unattractive and should immediately introduce plain packs for cigarettes. It seems to have escaped Hoff’s notice that Syria is now five years into a genocidal civil war, and that the government is too busy fighting against a fundamentalist death cult to waste time redesigning fag packets. If you live in Syria right now, it’s probably not tobacco that’s going to kill you.

When an organisation that’s supposed to be promoting health becomes so corrupted by prohibitionist zealots that it’s willing to endorse a madman who massacres his own citizens in the streets, it is no longer fit to exist. The WHO’s senior staff need to be swept away and replaced by sane adults. And until people like the odious da Costa are gone, no civilised government or organisation should have anything to do with the FCTC. Tobacco control fanatics are now so extreme that they’re openly allying themselves with murderous criminals like Kim and Duterte. It’s time for the world to stand up and stop the bastards.


  • 2

This is how freedom dies

Category : rants

Ever heard of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health? No, I didn’t think you would have. It sounds respectable enough, of course. “Chartered Institute” suggests a sober, responsible organisation that maintains professional standards across an industry. My father’s a chartered surveyor, for example. My mother is a chartered accountant. All highly respectable.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is a bit different. It’s a registered charity and, like so many other registered charities in our brave new world, is basically just an extremist pressure group. That was probably to be expected because “environmental health” is a pretty nebulous term. It’s easy to nail down what a surveyor does. The same goes for an accountant, an architect or an engineer. But what does an environmental health professional do?

It turns out they’re the Thought Police.

Early this morning the CIEH issued a demand for “voluntary smoking bans” to be imposed on any location in the UK “wherever children play or learn”. This would cover not just children’s play areas but also all public parks, zoos and theme parks. To support this crackpottery they’re citing a YouGov survey that says 89% of adults in the UK would support a smoking ban in play areas, and 57% would be happy for parks to be made smoke-free.

Now, I don’t for one minute support making children breathe tobacco smoke. While I’m sceptical of the wilder claims made about secondhand smoke it certainly isn’t good for you. Also, in my experience, children smell bad enough already without lightly marinading the little brutes in stale Lambert & Butler fumes. But there’s no possible objection to smoking outdoors. Any exposure to toxins would be almost homeopathic; a cigarette is small and the atmosphere is very large. It’s absurd to claim that a faint whiff of fag smoke is even remotely as harmful as the pall of diesel exhaust that hangs over most parks and play areas.

So the CIEH haven’t claimed that. Instead, in the absence of any actual risk to health – you know, like environmental health, the stuff that’s supposed to be their fucking job, they’ve opened the doors of the Ministry of Truth. This is what these heroes of IngSoc have to say about their reasons for this insanity:

Children should be able to have fun and enjoy themselves without seeing someone smoking and thinking this is normal behaviour

Except smoking is normal behaviour. Over 16% of adults in the UK smoke; that’s a lot more than the number of people who, for example, go to a mosque. It’s more than the number of people who are LGBT. It’s more than the number of people who vote Liberal Democrat. Are CIEH saying all those things are abnormal, too?

It is not up to the government to decide what is, or is not, normal behaviour. It’s up to them to decide – with our approval every five years at a general election – what’s legal behaviour, and to make sure nobody breaks the law, But as long as something isn’t actually illegal then it does not matter one tiny speck of shit whether it’s normal or not. We all get to decide what’s normal for us, within the bounds of the law, and we do not need the Thought Police to make sure we aren’t harbouring unapproved opinions.

And if it isn’t up to the government to decide what’s normal or not, it certainly isn’t up to some gang of unelected busybodies like the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. It’s time the whole tribe of parasitic pressure groups, fake charities and other slime of the “Third Sector” were reined in, before their arrogance turns the UK into a sort of organic Airstrip One, a North Korea with kale smoothies. These shitpuffins have far too much influence over government policy and, by extension, our lives. Look at the absurd sugar tax, a useless and regressive measure that’s only being introduced because a handful of screaming morons demanded it. Look at how the execrable harridan Deborah Arnott of ASH is writing the UK’s official policy at the World Health Organisation.

Enough. We didn’t vote for these people and, barring measures that are very illegal indeed, we can’t get rid of them. Why should we continue to fund them with our taxes and get nothing in exchange but their shrill, joyless hectoring? It’s time for CIEH, ASH, CASH, EPHA and all the other alphabet associations to STFU.


  • 12

Human stupidity

“Only two things are infinite,” said Albert Einstein, “The universe and human stupidity. But I’m not sure about the universe.” Happily, I can confirm that while the universe now seems likely to be finite, human stupidity is as boundless as Einstein always believed.

I’ve just reported a vape shop to Trading Standards.

This is not something that makes me particularly happy, but I believe it needed to be done. If we can’t act responsibly as a community we will make ourselves easy targets for any public health nutter with some spare time and a grudge.

Last night the vape shop in question announced, on their Facebook page, that they were now selling “Pokéjuice” at £15 for a 60ml bottle. This is wrong on so many levels I could write about it all week, but here’s the short version:

  • Pokémon characters are the intellectual property of Nintendo, a huge Japanese company. Branding a product with Pokémon characters is intellectual property theft (which incidentally, as a writer, I absolutely hate). It’s likely to get you in a lot of trouble with some very expensive lawyers.
  • Thanks to the TPD vendors can no longer just start selling a new product. They have until next May to sell off stocks of existing products, but any new one has to get approval. As this one comes in a non-compliant 60ml bottle I can safely say it hasn’t been approved. Yes, the TPD is something else I absolutely hate; nevertheless it’s the law, and if vendors flout the law they hand ammunition to those who want the industry shut down.
  • It is very easy to argue that Pokémon-branded liquids are being marketed at children. Personally I don’t buy that; plenty adults like Pokémon, too, and I have no reason to suspect that this vendor would sell to children anyway. However, in the current climate, this is a spectacularly stupid piece of marketing. If you’re under the spotlight you don’t get your dong out and start playing with it.

I made clear on the vendor’s Facebook page last night that these products needed to be gone by this morning. Today, I asked if they were gone. I got no reply, but several other people commented that they had bought them. So a few minutes ago I called Trading Standards, then sent them an email with some screenshots as evidence. I made sure they knew that I was doing this as a vaping advocate who believed we could – and should – police ourselves. Will they take action? Who knows? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

So I realise that this is going to be pretty controversial. Some of you are going to hate me for it. That’s fine; I’ve been hated by much worse people than you, and I lived to tell the tale. I’ll survive your dislike – and, if I see another vendor doing something as stupid as this, I’ll report them too. If we want to be treated as adults we need to act like adults. And if we don’t want the likes of ASH running things for us, we need to show that we can run them ourselves.