ASHes to ashes, trust to dust

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ASHes to ashes, trust to dust

Well, colour me surprised. Action on Smoking and Health, the “pro-vaping” political lobby group who’ve “been supportive for quite some time”, just decided to publicly throw vapers under the bus. In an atrocious press release earlier today they announced that the EU Tobacco Products Directive, which becomes law on Friday, is “not a problem” for most vapers. It’s now clear that the hard-hitting post Clive Bates made a couple of days ago was in fact a blast at his former organisation, and I have to say it was entirely justified. The same goes for this morning’s responses by the New Nicotine Alliance and Vapers In Power.

ASH supportive

To claim that nobody will be disadvantaged by this demented, arbitrary law is simply bollocks. The TPD’s Article 20, which deals with vaping, is an absolute disaster – and ASH know that. They’ve been talking regularly to vaping advocates for several years. I know for a fact that many people have explained to them, carefully and in great detail, how vape devices work and what makes them effective for smoking cessation. ASH have also been told how people actually use the equipment, and why the TPD rules will have only negative effects on popularity, efficacy and even safety.

Here’s an example. One of the most incomprehensible clauses in Article 20 is a ban on any tank holding more than 2ml of liquid. This is allegedly a safety feature, to prevent us all being killed by accidental leaks of deadly liquid nicotine. Never mind that the actual risk of nicotine poisoning from e-liquid was wildly exaggerated by the EU Commission, in the face of protests from the scientists who did the actual research they claimed to rely on. If we assume that leaks are indeed a hazard that needs to me minimised, wouldn’t it be a good idea to look at how they actually happen?

A simple guide to leaks

Modern tanks – many of which have capacities of up to 9ml, while almost none comply with the 2ml limit – are extremely good at keeping their contents in. There are only really two occasions when they’re likely to leak:

  • While being refilled. This is obvious; while the filling port is open, liquid has the potential to escape.
  • When the liquid level drops too low. This one is a bit more technical. Tanks are full of liquid, but have holes at the bottom to let air in. Basic physics tells us that without something to keep the liquid in the tank it will pour out the air holes. The reason that doesn’t happen is pressure equilibrium. No air can get in the top of the tank, so if liquid starts to escape it creates a partial vacuum. The outside air pressure then simply pushes the liquid back into the tank. Or at least, it does as long as the liquid level is safely above the wick holes in the heating coil. If it isn’t, air can get in through the mouthpiece and through the coil into the tank. That lets the pressure in the tank equalise with the pressure outside, so the liquid will start to drain through the air holes. Tilting a partly full tank can let enough air in to cause a leak.

ASH, in their infinite wisdom, don’t think this is a problem. Their argument is that the average vaper uses 4ml of liquid per day, so they’ll only have to fill their tank twice a day. Never mind that this is obviously more leak-prone than filling it every day and a half; it’s also dead wrong. Most tanks will reliably work without leaking until there’s slightly under 1ml of liquid left. With something like my Subtank Mini (4.5ml) or Uwell Crown (4ml) that’s not a problem; you can vape for most of a day, by which time it’s looking pretty empty and needs a refill – but still has comfortably more than 1ml inside. Now what about a 2ml tank? It’s likely to start leaking when it’s barely under half full, unless you top it up four or five times a day. It’s blindingly obvious that the TPD rules make leaks far more likely.

And ASH should know this. After all they’ve been told often enough, by people who are very familiar with how this equipment works. The problem is that they simply aren’t interested. The arrogant clowns who run ASH are part of the new self-appointed technocratic elite, and it’s not in their nature to listen to ordinary people. It doesn’t matter that the NNA trustees they talk to are vaping experts who use these products every single day; they’re just little people, and what do they know? Instead, ASH have chosen to side with their technocrat friends in the EU – even though they know perfectly well that the TPD’s tank size and liquid strength limits are based on a deliberate misinterpretation of the science.

ASH – Not on our side

ASH don’t support vaping. They’ll make a few token supportive noises now and then, as long as they’re not expected to do anything actually useful like oppose a vaping ban, but this isn’t because they care about our rights or health. It’s simply because they can use vaping as a stick to hit smokers with – and the point about hitting things with a stick is, you don’t really care much about the welfare of the stick. If it breaks you can just toss it aside and find another.

I’ve never trusted ASH, and I’ve never been comfortable with the sight of vaping advocates working with them. At the same time I understand why some of my fellow advocates – dedicated, tireless people I have immense respect for – felt it was worth getting out the long spoons and sitting down with this particular sour-faced Beelzebub. ASH are very influential people (not something our democracy should be proud of, as they are entirely beyond the reach of the electorate’s wrath) and their support – real, as opposed to token and cynical support – would have been immensely valuable. But today’s press release shows that real support is not forthcoming. ASH have listened to the huge concerns vapers have about this lethally stupid law – and they have dismissed us. The experience, knowledge and fears of real people count for nothing, compared with the reflexive urge to support a ban imposed by their fellow unelected parasites.

The support offered by ASH is not a crutch; it’s a gallows. These are some very clever people, with years of experience in manipulating perceptions. They would be delighted to keep stringing vapers along, sending out just enough positive messages to convince us that they really get it. In the meantime they can keep right on working at their goal of bringing the industry under the thumb of the tobacco control lobby. In ASH’s shining vision of the future vapers will be the new smokers – meekly using products approved by the elite, at times and places specified by the elite, while paying a huge tax to the elite as thanks for the crumbs we’re thrown. I hope that, after today, any trust that any vaper retained for Deborah Arnott and her scheming gang has turned to dust. They have their own agenda, and it is fundamentally opposed to ours.

Whatever they claim, ASH know damn well that the TPD will be a huge problem for most vapers. The message they sent this morning is that they just don’t care. They’re far more interested in hanging on to their budgets and their unearned seat at the table of power. Well, that power is slowly slipping away from them, along with their reason for existing. If smokers in the UK want to quit, all they have to do is find a good vape shop. It’s time for vapers to send a message of our own. We don’t need the likes of ASH any more – so to hell with them, and let them fucking burn.

 

 


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An appeal to ASH: Save e-cigarettes from your stupid colleagues

Clive Bates has just written an excellent post about the stupidity of those in “public health” who stubbornly insist on supporting the EU’s ludicrous restrictions on electronic cigarettes. I won’t go through all his points again, but suffice to say that he’s thoroughly demolished every possible argument in favour of the TPD.

The Article 20 regulations seem calculated to deny the most effective e-cigarettes to those who need them most – smokers and people who’ve recently switched. It’s all very well to say that “only” 9% of British vapers use liquids stronger than 20mg/ml, but who are those 9%? Mostly they’re people who first picked up an electronic cigarette recently, and still need a high nicotine concentration to keep them from relapsing. Or they’re people like me, who aren’t interested in creating massive clouds of vapour and just want something that will deliver ample nicotine in a pleasant-tasting form without having to take a puff every two minutes.

There are various other so-called justifications put forward for the TPD, but all of them are just as daft. If the reason for the tank size limit is to avoid dangerous spills (not that a splash of e-juice will do you any harm anyway) then where’s the sense in making people refill more often? Why are small packs illegal for cigarettes but compulsory for e-liquid? What is the sense in the spiteful and childish six-month notification requirement?

None of the restrictions imposed by the TPD have any scientific justification whatsoever, and to argue that they won’t remove the most effective products from the shelves is nothing short of demented. It’s time for those in public health who support vaping to stand up and condemn this cretinous assault. Those who recognise e-cigarettes as a useful tool for smoking cessation have to explain to their more intellectually challenged colleagues why it’s a bad law written by dishonest and corrupt people.

Frankly, if you’re not willing to condemn Article 20 then you don’t believe in tobacco harm reduction. Anyone who supports these restrictions is either stupid or malevolent; it’s that simple. So come on, ASH; you have the media presence, intellectual clout and financial resources to let the country know, once and for all, that this is a bad – insanely bad – law. Show us that your heart’s in the right place, by breaking your silence and speaking out against this egregious piece of financially-driven desk murder.


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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?

Nothing.

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”

/sarcasm

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.