Public health and vaping – Silence isn’t support

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Public health and vaping – Silence isn’t support

The UK is in the grip of a moral panic deeper than any that’s been seen since the medieval witch-burning craze, and about as firmly based in reality. The anti-sugar cranks are whipping themselves into a frenzy. Local government busybodies are incensed that restaurants are merely giving free tap water to anyone who asks for it, as they’re legally required to do; they want waiters to actively offer it as the first choice, because some miserable cheapskate might be “too embarrassed” to ask for it. Idiot quinoa munchers are worried about their three-year-old’s gender issues. The government’s chief medical officer openly lies about the health benefits of alcohol and nobody challenges her. Against this backdrop of frothing hysteria, the relentless advance of vaping bans barely stands out.

Of course it’s true that, if you’re a vaper, you’re a lot better off in the UK than you would be almost anywhere else. The government is taking a relatively light approach to the EU’s insane Tobacco Products Directive – the penalty for breaking the rules is a mere two years in jail, barely half of what the average violent rapist serves. It looks like some loopholes will be ignored, making it possible to buy an EU-approved 2ml atomiser then fit a larger replacement tank. But none of that is going to matter much if the only place you’re allowed to vape is in your own shed, with the windows boarded over and a 300-yard exclusion zone set up to make sure no children catch a glimpse of your filthy habit.

Nuts in Nottingham

Last week’s bad news was Nottinghamshire Council’s decision to impose a total ban on smoking and vaping on all its employees. From now on it will be forbidden to take a vape break, or to vape while on council business. Basically, from the moment you get to work until the moment you knock off for the day you’ll be forbidden to touch an e-cigarette. The ban can be enforced by disciplinary action, so it’s no toothless threat.

Obviously this is a fucking awful idea. Applying it to smokers is bad enough; what possible harm is there in letting people nip outside for five minutes for a quick puff? Lumping vapers in too, however, is utterly grotesque. It’s also harmful. We might all be highly educated on the science and behavioural theory behind vaping, but the public aren’t. The public rely on what they read in the media, and what they’re reading on a daily basis is that smoking and vaping are the same thing.

Think about the implications of that for a moment. We all know that vaping isn’t smoking, but the public are being drip-fed a completely different message. If vaping is covered by the same laws as smoking then it must be related to smoking, right? You can’t smoke in public because of the dangers of second-hand smoke, so if vaping is banned too that must be because of the dangers of second-hand vapour. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Public perceptions

Of course not. It’s crap, but the public don’t know that. They don’t read medical journals or attend public health conferences, so they don’t know that the majority of the UK’s public health experts – yes, even busybody fake charities like ASH – are opposed to vaping bans. And the reason they don’t know is that nobody is telling them.

A few weeks ago Pembrokeshire council decided to ban vaping on a beach. Yes, a beach. There is no reason for this. None at all. It’s ridiculous. The ozone in sea air is more of a danger to your health on a beach than cigarette smoke is, never mind e-cig vapour. So this ban is literally insane. And what did those “pro-vaping” people at ASH Wales say about it?


In fact nobody in public health complained about this piece of illiberal crackpottery. Not a damn word. Our supposed allies in the tobacco control movement just pretended it hadn’t happened.

And last week there was the Notts ban. What did ASH and our other friends have to say? Yes, you guessed it – nothing. Again, not a damn word.

Well, mostly not a damn word. I should say that there was in fact an intervention from Professor John Britton, one of the most prominent pro-vaping experts in the UK. He laid into the council with a stinging denunciation of their authoritarian stupidity:

“This is terrific news”


With fiends like this, who needs enemas?

Nobody else is saying this, so I will: I am extremely disappointed by Professor Britton’s idiotic words. He’s alleged to be pro-vaping, but in his rush to welcome yet another assault on smokers he instantly forgot we even exist. To Britton and his ilk vaping is only useful as another stick to hit smokers with. They don’t support our rights at all, and I can guarantee that the moment they think smoking has been beaten down far enough they will turn on us. Another allegedly supportive health activist is on record as saying she doesn’t have a problem with nicotine use “for now”. I’ll make sure the screenshots come back to haunt her next time she claims to be the vaper’s friend, because “for now” just isn’t good enough.

ASH is the organisation that’s built the strongest links with vaping advocates, and I’ll happily acknowledge that they’re more than willing to speak up for us in private. There are some qualifications, of course; ASH boss Deborah Arnott is happy for smokers to vape as a way of quitting, but doesn’t want non-smokers to use e-cigs. I’m not entirely sure why what Arnott wants actually matters – after all she’s just a private citizen like the rest of us – but I digress.

Silence is complicity

Where ASH falls down is a complete unwillingness to say anything useful in public. They may support vaping, but apparently not enough to actually object to something as cretinous as the Nottinghamshire ban. Their excuse was “We weren’t asked”, but I don’t buy that for a minute. After all nobody asked them to yelp about plain packs for years, but they did it anyway. Nobody asked them to demand a tobacco levy, but they did it anyway. Not having been asked has never stopped ASH from gobbing off in the past, and I don’t believe it’s what kept them quiet this time either. I think they just couldn’t bring themselves to condemn another attack on smokers, even if their silence meant throwing vapers under the bus. Again – ASH won’t condemn Article 20 of the TPD either.

It’s all very well having allies in the public health industry, but what’s the point of allies who won’t actually stand beside you when it matters? Simple – there isn’t any. Put bluntly, I’m not interested in arguments about how it’s difficult for them to oppose any anti-smoking legislation, or how they’d lose credibility if they aligned too publicly with vaping. Those are their problems, not ours. I don’t support their jihad against tobacco; my only interest in these people is how they can help us, which currently is not very much. If ASH really  support vaping then they need to start being more vocal about it. They have plentiful media resources, as we can see from their steady stream of press releases, and excellent contacts with journalists. If they wanted to express their opposition to vaping bans they could so so easily. But they don’t.  And until that changes I, and other advocates, will continue to condemn their craven, self-interested silence.

  • “So who are Dowd and Coughlin? Philanthropists? Well, not exactly. They appear to work for this law firm, and have previously been involved in class action suits against tobacco companies. ”

    **VERY** Excellent Catch! Antismoking research (which of course is the base source of antivaping research from the nuttier/more-fanatical branch of the antismoking movement) is actually less reliable than research ever put out by Philip Morris or RJR. Why? Simple: Dual Motivation. The con artists of Big Tobacco only had ONE motivation driving them: Money. The con artists of Big Antismoking/Antivaping are driven by TWO motivations: (1) Money; (2) Idealism.

    When PM researchers approached a scientific question and knew that the only way to get another grant was by pleasing their bosses, they had at least a tiny little voice inside that would criticize them if they strayed too far from the truth simply in order to fill their pockets. But when Antis are filling out their grant applications and juggling their numbers and presentations in order to come up with the proper antismoking/vaping results, their conscience is salved by the music of little idealistic angels whispering in their ears that “It’s ok to lie… It’s for a good cause…”

    This new breed of researchers is far more dangerous than the old breed because it’s not always possible to track the motivation to the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. So it’s especially gratifying when someone like Fergus is able to don the gumshoe booties and come up with a nice clear dirty muddy old-fashioned money trail! Thankee good sir!

    And backing it up with pointers as to HOW they’ve lied is the icing on the cake! I added some vaping icing of my own at Just like with all the antismoking studies the truth is almost never what it appears to be out there.

    – MJM

  • Karyyl

    1. When these things are coming up, ASK them. Then if they say no, you’ve nailed them, and if they say yes, it’s a good thing. (BTW, in the UK, do cities etc have to publicize the discussions on this before making the final decision?)

  • jude

    Excellent blog once again Fergus, its interesting that ASH are so reluctant to support vaping publicly, but unsurprising. They are as fearful of their jobs as any other worker in our current political climate, this is not an excuse, but it is an explanation. They are also cowed by this fear, which doesn’t speak well for the character of these people, but then again, these are people who have based their careers on the propagation of hatred, oppression and punishment of smokers, for their own pleasure, (Chapman, Daube, Mckee, Glantz, et al take great pleasure in harming and punishing smokers and vapers) and financial reward, so I expect they are no better than they should be.

    In Australia, we live in a police state, in regards to vaping, but at least we know who our enemies are, the lines are clearly drawn, we have a government, (doesn’t matter which brand they are all the same), that would like people to keep smoking for money, but put out lies and propaganda that says the opposite. Those in public “health” go along with the government lies because they are either cowards fearing for their jobs, or they are narcissists and liars, like Chapman.

    We have a bizarre situation where cancer “charities” support the banning of vapour products because it will give smokers a way out of smoking, and therefore they wont be paying tobacco taxes which fund these pro disease organisations, and it will mean a drop in profits for pharma corps, which sponsor and pay these same disease organisations to promote their drugs.

    There are some very rare exceptions to this rule, Dr Marewa Glover from NZ is one, and Dr Colin Mendelsohn from Aus, is another, they are people of good character that do speak up, and they should be applauded. The problem is that they are too few and far between, to really make a dent in the corruption inherent in the system as it stands today.

  • Lollylulubes

    The WHO are massively against vaping, so I guess Deborah et al want to go on their all expenses paid jollies and avoid getting flayed by Chan. There’s every chance that they’ll also be coming for vaping one day, so they wouldn’t want any embarrassing evidence of support left behind.