Steam Potion – What e-liquid SHOULD be like

  • 6

Steam Potion – What e-liquid SHOULD be like

Not that long ago I had a bit of a rant about some of the dumb branding that’s prevalent in the e-liquid industry. I’m sick of seeing bottles that violate intellectual property law, or feature the sort of cartoon characters that play into the hands of nanny statists and their incessant bleats about targeting children. E-liquid is an adult product and should be branded as one. Which is why I was so pleased when a full set of Steam Potion liquids landed in my letter box a few weeks ago.

Steam Potion is a new liquid company, specialising in fruity dessert juices. They have five flavours so far, but I’ll come back to that. First, I’d just like to compliment them on their branding. Their labels are understated, almost retro, and in my opinion extremely classy. As the name suggests they’ve gone for a steam train motif, which carries over into the names of their liquids. I think that gives them a very nice up-market touch; steam locomotives symbolise a golden age of rail travel, when a train was a sophisticated and elegant way to get around.

Anyway, here are what their bottles look like:

steam potion e-liquid

You’ll notice that I’ve put a pretty heavy dent in four of them, but not the fifth. I’ll explain in a minute, I promise. Anyway, these are low-nicotine dessert liquids, and those who know me will be aware that I usually go with high-nicotine pipe tobacco flavours. So why am I vaping what’s almost the polar opposite of what I normally prefer? Well, that’s simple – they’re awesome.

In the interests of full disclosure and all that boring stuff, I was sent these liquids as thanks for writing some product descriptions. That led to quite an amusing conversation in itself, when the boss at Steam Potion asked me what nicotine strength I usually use. “24mg,” I replied, “But 18mg is fine if that’s your strongest.”

For a moment, all was silence.

“Uh, what sort of gear do you use?” he asked, obviously wondering why he’d had the bad luck to track down the only maniac in the world who’s still using an eGo-C.

I picked up my trusty mod from the desk and lovingly stroked its battered steel flanks. “A Uwell Crown on an RX200,” I said.

The silence came back. It hung around a bit longer this time.

“I can send you some 6mg,” he said finally. “By the way, is your throat made of asbestos or something?”

Anyway, the liquids were a gift, for which I’d like to say a big thank you to Steam Potion, but I did offer to write something about them. “If you do, be honest,” I was told. “Say what you really think.” So I will, probably to nobody’s great surprise, and the first thing I’m going to say is that I wish these were available in a higher strength – even a TPD-friendly 18mg/ml would be great. Alternatively, if Steam Potion sold flavour concentrates I’d happily buy those and mix my own, because the contents of my freezer are definitely not TPD-friendly.

rx200 wotofo ice cubed

I like these flavours so much I bought a dripper just to use with them

Still, I’m a realist. We have to take life as it is, not as it would be in a world with more nicotine, so 6mg it was. To give the liquids a fair chance I decided to try them in a dripper, which would compensate for the low strength by cranking the vapour production up. They’re all high-VG liquids, too, which is ideal for dripping. Unfortunately the only drippers I actually owned were an elderly Tobh and a positively ancient Igo-L, so I splashed out on a Wotofo Ice³, which seemed like it should be cloudy enough to do the job. In due course that arrived – not too quickly, because I got it from FastTech – and I set it up with a pair of Clapton coils and some fluffy stuff. Resistance came in at 0.4Ω, and I started with the power set to 50W (but went up a bit from there). Then I tried all the liquids, so I should probably stop waffling and tell you how that worked out.

Puffing Billy

The original Puffing Billy is in London’s Science Museum, because it’s the world’s oldest surviving steam locomotive and therefore pretty historical. Steam Potion, appropriately, picked the name as their first (and flagship) liquid, which is a blend of assorted berries with a vanilla background note. I’m not sure exactly what berries are in there, but I strongly suspect one of them is raspberry. In any case they’re sweet and  deliciously cool, which contrasts nicely with the warm vanilla. My bottle of Puffing Billy is among the emptiest of the set, because quite often I’ve made it to dinner time then realised I’ve been vaping this all day. It’s very, very nice.

Stephenson’s Rocket

Robert Stephenson’s famous 1829 locomotive was painted yellow. Steam Potion’s version is banana flavoured. Bananas are yellow. That seems fair enough to me.

Actually there’s a bit more going on than just bananas. The main flavour is a banana cream, which is always going to be a hard act to follow. This one has strawberries in it. There isn’t a lot left of the Rocket either.

Trans-Siberian

This is a cereal flavour, with loads of milk and a dollop of cream on top. I have to say, up front, that I don’t like it much. This isn’t the liquid’s fault, though – it’s mine. Trans-Siberian has a really good malty cereal base and the milk is done perfectly. The problem is that I can’t stand milk, which is unhygienic and comes out a cow’s bottom. If you do like milk I suspect you’ll really enjoy this one.

North Star

With North Star, named after one of Stephenson’s later engines, Steam Potion race right back into my flavour comfort zone. North Star is a strawberry ripple blend and it’s truly awesome. The strawberry syrup is rich and sweet, and the vanilla ice cream sets it off perfectly. Like the Puffing Billy, this one is a really delicious all day vape.

Midnight Express

It’s a toss-up whether this one or Puffing Billy is my favourite from the range. Midnight Express is probably the most decadent Steam Potion liquid – an ice cream sundae, crammed with bananas then topped with rich, dark chocolate sauce. It’s perfectly balanced, avoiding the trap of being too sweet to vape all day, and it really is pretty spectacular. I’ll be buying more of this when I run out, which is likely to be quite soon.

So there we have it – five dessert, or at least sweet, liquids, with a strong bias towards vanilla and fruit flavours. If dessert vapes are your thing I would definitely recommend you try Steam Potion. They’re the sort of responsible company that deserves our support, but more importantly than that, they really are good. Good enough that I’m enjoying vaping them at a quarter of my usual nic strength.

Steam Potion are a new company, so to get things moving they’re offering a rather nice discount now. Visit their website and use code xm30 to get 30% off. Buy another two bottles and they’ll throw in free UK postage. That’s not a great help to me, because I live in Germany, but I know the bulk of my readers are UK-based.

Once again, thanks to Shahid at Steam Potion for sending me these liquids. I’m thoroughly enjoying them.

These bottles are nice enough to hang on your tree. So I did.

These bottles are nice enough to hang on your tree. So I did.


  • 0

Black Note liquids gain TPD approval in 15 EU nation

Black Note is proud of our position as a responsible and forward-thinking company, and we constantly work to deliver the best products and most professional service to our customers. We want our liquids to be available for as long as you want them, and to give the best possible vaping experience. That means we seek to comply with all applicable laws and standards, both in the USA and internationally.

As the next step in our journey we are pleased to announce that Black Note liquids are now officially notified under the Tobacco Products Directive (Directive 2014/40/EU) in the following 15 countries:

  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom

Our full range is now available in a 10ml bottle size that fully complies with TPD regulations, and we have completed all the necessary steps to gain approval under the new rules. The TPD is a challenging piece of legislation that makes it difficult and expensive to gain approval; sadly that’s likely to reduce the choices available to vapers in the EU as manufacturers trim their ranges or leave the industry altogether. The good news is that Black Note will still be here, supplying the finest naturally extracted tobacco flavours.”


  • 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.


  • 6

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.

 

 


  • 3

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.


  • 5

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.


  • 10

Vendors, explosions and the TPD

In this post I’d like to make two suggestions to all vape vendors. This isn’t something I really want to do, because many of you are doing a great job for the vaping community, but right now I feel I have to raise both these points. What you do with them is up to you, but I hope you’ll at least consider them.

Exploding batteries: It’s not your fault, but it is your problem

The first one is to ask that you please supply all lithium ion batteries in a proper battery box. Most of us know the potential dangers of this sort of technology, if it’s abused or mistreated. Unfortunately some idiots don’t. I know it isn’t your job, as vendors, to educate people about basic safety before selling them things, but images of grilled numpties are not the sort of publicity vaping needs right now. So don’t do what one German vendor did to me recently:

Battery safety

Well okay, if you do this it IS your fault…

When someone orders batteries, send them out in a box. Basic protective cases hold two 18650s or four 18350s, and cost 40p on ebay. You can probably get them wholesale for half that. Anyway, it’s packaging; you can add it to your shipping charge.

Brexit, the TPD, and why it’s time to end ignorance

The EU’s Tobacco Products Directive goes into effect on the 20th of May this year. The British government doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about it, and has watered it down as much as possible, but they have no choice: It’s been voted through by our overlords in Brussels, so it has to become British law. This is awkward for the government because they’ve committed to a referendum on the 23rd of June, and they’d rather like us to vote to stay in the EU. Anyone who’s just been to the local vape shop and found that their favourite liquid has been banned by a Brussels directive is, I’d guess, not too likely to vote that way.

So the government has done something devious, and staged the introduction of the law so its full effects won’t become obvious until May next year. That way they can keep the EU happy by putting it on the statute books, but put off the moment vapers realise what’s been done to them until the referendum is out of the way.

Just in case anyone’s under any illusions about what the TPD does, here’s a quick reminder:

  • Ban on all liquids stronger than 20mg/ml
  • Ban on all liquid bottles larger than 10ml
  • Drip rate regulation for bottles – which effectively bans glass bottles
  • Ban on all atomisers with a tank capacity greater than 2ml
  • Ban on all atomisers that aren’t leak-proof, child-proof and tamper-proof
  • Ban on advertising
  • New products can’t be sold until six months after they’ve been officially registered

There’s also a clause that says if any three EU members ban a type of refillable atomiser the EU Commission can impose a blanket ban in all member states.

There’s even more bad news. Manufacturers and importers will have to register every device they sell, along with every strength and flavour of liquid. The expense of running this system won’t be paid by the EU; it will be paid by vendors. It will cost £220 to submit the paperwork for each product – and the paperwork will just be shoved straight into a cabinet, because it isn’t actually meant to achieve anything. Then there’s a further £60 charge per year (per product, remember) for the dust that collects on it.

Notification fees will grind down your choices

Think about that for a moment. Lots of us enjoy the sheer variety of liquids on the market, but how is that variety going to survive the cost of the TPD notification system? Take my favourite liquid brand, Manabush. Right now Manabush sell sixteen different flavours, and you can get each of them in three nicotine strengths. That’s a total of 48 products, and in May Manabush is going to have to register them all – at a total cost of £10,560. For a small business that is not a trivial expense. Then, every year, there will be another bill for £2,880. Every time they add a new flavour to the range there’s another £220 to pay, and the annual bill goes up by £60.

And remember – Manabush doesn’t get anything for all this money, except the EU’s permission to keep on doing what they were doing perfectly well anyway. It’s just another unnecessary expense imposed by ignorant bureaucrats, who mostly don’t understand business because they’ve never had a real job.

So when the TPD starts to bite, Manabush are going to look at the product range and start checking sales figures. Any liquid that doesn’t make enough profit to cover the TPD fees, plus the time and effort it takes to fill out the paperwork, is going to disappear – and they’ll be more reluctant to introduce any new ones, because who knows if they’ll sell well enough to make the cost and effort worthwhile? This is what’s going to happen at every manufacturer and importer of vape gear from now on.

Choice is going to be even more limited than you expected, because many products not actually banned by the TPD will be killed off by the fees.

Unfortunately there are a handful of vapers, including some of the organisers of UK Vapefest, who have spent the last two years playing down the impact of the TPD for unsavoury reasons of their own. They constantly tell people that it won’t make any difference; that products will get better and safer; that it’s nothing to worry about. And thanks to David Cameron’s frog-boiling strategy of delaying the law’s full impact, some people are going to keep on believing their malicious tripe until the hammer crashes down on 20 May 2017.

Promote the truth

So here’s my second suggestion to vendors. Once you’ve sorted out your battery boxes, knock up a logo for your website and add it to your images of any product that will be banned by the TPD. Every tank that holds over 2ml; every glass bottle; every 30ml bottle; every 24mg liquid. Let your customers know what will be disappearing from the market next May, and make bloody sure they know whose fault it is. If everyone who buys vape gear starts getting that message pounded home from 20 May onwards, hopefully by 23 June they’ll realise exactly how bad it’s going to be. And they’ll also know they can vote to change it.

TPD warning logo

Update: I’ve just been made aware in the comments that there are other significant costs involved – testing and literature searches. I’d assumed that was only for those who braved the road to medical licensing but no, it isn’t – it’s for everyone. How much will this cost? Who knows, but a quick search has turned up estimates from £3,000 to £8,000 per product. For most small companies that’s completely unrealistic. It’s not likely to affect hardware so much, because most of that’s imported and we’ll probably see single large importers emerge for each main brand. For most juice makers, however, it’s the end of the road.


  • 3
vaping and the eu referendum

Boiling frogs

Category : rants , vaping

It’s often claimed that if you put a frog in a pan of water, then slowly heat it up, the frog won’t notice the rising temperature and will stay in there until it’s boiled alive. I’ve always had my doubts about this – surely it stays in there because you put the lid on the pan? – but I’ve never tried it, because I’m not the sort of person who boils frogs. If you’re looking for that kind of witless sadist I’d suggest you track down a Labour or Lib Dem MEP.

Whether or not it works with frogs, however, the British government seems to be hoping the same principle works on vapers. The abominable Tobacco Products Directive goes into effect on the 20th of May, and as anyone who’s been following it will know, the effects are horrific. Every single atomiser I own will be banned; so will all the liquids I use on a daily basis. The only liquid I ever buy that’s compliant will probably disappear anyway, because its maker will be driven off the market by the cost and hassle of the notification regime. Once the law is fully in effect you can forget about getting your hands on the latest hardware; for no very apparent reason except sheer spite, the TPD builds in a six-month delay that will ensure products are obsolete before they even go on sale.

It has to be said that the British government isn’t too enthusiastic about the TPD. They’ve tried to interpret the EU directive as liberally as possible, to minimise the impact it’s going to have on vapers. In fact it looks like they may even have gone beyond what’s allowed. The EU built in a twelve-month transition period to allow vendors to sell off old stock, but the UK has ruled that non-compliant products can even be imported and produced until the 20th of November, and won’t have to come off the market until May 2017.

At first glance that looks like good news for vapers, but I’m not so sure that it is. The aim seems to be to make the TPD’s introduction as painless as possible, so painless that nobody except vendors – who’ll immediately start being hammered with fees and pointless paperwork – will even notice. If vapers don’t notice any change then they won’t be absolutely furious when the referendum on EU membership comes around, most likely in November. Of course behind the scenes the water in that pan will be slowly heating up, but it won’t come to the boil until next May – with the referendum safely in the past and unlikely ever to be repeated.

When David Cameron decided to hold the referendum he probably thought an “In” vote was already as good as in the bag. Consistent majorities have supported staying in for decades, after all. But since he started his negotiation process the EU has tripped on its dong time after time – accidentally provoking war in the Ukraine, trashing what remained of the Greek economy and bungling the migration crisis so badly it’s hard to believe they aren’t screwing up on purpose. Public opinion has shifted dramatically, with most polls showing the two sides neck and neck and a few even putting “Out” in the lead.

This is a problem for the government, because Cameron and the leaders of the other main parties all want to stay in; after all, the EU is a proven way for people who failed at national politics to keep their snouts in the tax trough for a while longer. If the TPD hit with its full force in May, it’s safe to bet that three million or so angry vapers would be making their feelings known at the ballot box – and with the polls the way they are right now, that would deliver a crushing victory for the “Out” side.

It’s possible that the government actually is trying to protect e-cigarette users as much as possible, but the cynic in me says that they really, really don’t want all those vapers to notice the rising temperature and hop out of the pan. So they’re trying to turn up the heat as gently as they can in the hope we won’t realise we’re cooked until the first bubbles appear.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t know if frogs can be fooled so easily. I do know something else, though. Vapers are smarter than frogs, and if we get fooled we have nobody but ourselves to blame. So don’t lose sight of how appallingly bad the TPD really is. Don’t listen to the divisive voices that say it won’t make much difference. Write to your MP to let them know that if Article 20 hasn’t been flushed down the toilet of history by the day of the referendum you’ll be voting to leave the EU. If they get enough letters saying that, the political will to do something might magically appear. And if it doesn’t, then vote “Out”. It’s not like it’s a bad idea anyway.


  • 1

The face of Big Vaping

Category : rants , vaping

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

– H.L. Mencken

So on Saturday I got pointed to this article, which purports to tell us how “Big Vaping” is spreading cynical misinformation on behalf of the tobacco industry, presumably to hook a new generation of nicotine addicts or some other dire outcome. The article, frankly, sent my blood pressure through the roof. Hosted on Vox.com, a sort of internet rest home for people who’d like to be journalists but have the investigative abilities of a stunned whelk, it’s written by a talentless oxygen thief named Julia Belluz. Julia, apparently, is a health correspondent, although as she’s the health correspondent for Vox.com that’s about as impressive as saying she’s supreme ruler of her own underwear. She’s also, according to a claim on her Twitter profile, an “evidence enthusiast”. Well, actually, I’m not so sure about that. Because if she had any understanding of what evidence actually is she would not have written this festering turd of an article.

“Big Vaping” is nothing more than the latest in a series of imaginary hobgoblins the temperance movement, in its latest guise of “public health”, has conjured up to menace the populace with. The tobacco companies Belluz is so terrified of are a minor presence in the e-cigarette market. Their products are, without exception, obsolete technology that only makes the headlines because of who’s selling it. The real vaping industry is a host of small to medium firms who develop, export and sell devices and liquids. It’s a fiercely competitive industry that’s more or less structurally incapable of acting in concert to achieve a goal like the ones Belluz accuses it of having. The big cigalike manufacturers, tobacco-owned or not, actually support the sort of restrictive laws California and other places are imposing; the smaller, innovative companies who make second and third generation devices are bitterly opposed to them, for good reason.

Anyway, let’s look at one of the faces of “Big Vaping”. Me.

My name is Fergus Mason. I come from the West of Scotland and I’m 45 years old. For most of my adult life I was a soldier; then I spent two years in Kabul as a civilian contractor for NATO, before returning home to become  a freelance writer. I started smoking when I was at university and never saw any particular reason to quit. After all I was fairly accustomed to things like bullets pinging off walls around me, or being woken by the sound of some suicidal idiot detonating himself and a Land Cruiser full of explosives outside the gate of where I worked. Even eating kebabs from Afghan street vendors was an interesting experience, sort of like Russian Roulette with diced lamb. If anything was going to kill me, I reasoned, it probably wasn’t going to be a cigarette. And when I came home in 2011 I just kept on smoking. Quitting, after 20-plus years, wasn’t exactly going to be easy and anyway I didn’t care.

Then, on 5 February 2013 – the day before my 43rd birthday – I woke up feeling rather unwell. I put it down to a hangover, drank some coffee and went to work as usual. I was soon struggling, though; instead of clearing, my head just seemed to become fuzzier as the day went on and I barely managed to write 400 words in six hours. When the dizzy spells and chest pains started I called a friend; I didn’t trust myself to drive by that point. When she arrived she took one look, bundled me into her car and took me to hospital.

As we pulled into the car park I had what doctors call a “sudden cardiac event”. The survival rate for SCEs is not very high – in fact it’s in the low single figures. I was rather lucky I had mine 50 yards from an ambulance whose crew were – rather ironically – standing around having a smoke break.

When I was released from hospital, after an excruciating week of blood tests, limp cheese and weak tea, it seemed that smoking might not be such a great idea in the future. I hadn’t lit up for a week but I knew what the relapse rate was like, so I decided to find an alternative. I had actually encountered electronic cigarettes before, in Kabul of all places, but they’d been pretty terrible. Now, however, I got a decent eGo kit from a local vape shop. And it worked! Within a few days I didn’t even miss smoking; I’d found something both safer and better. A few weeks later I upgraded to a Sigelei Zmax mod and that was that. I was, I decided, very firmly an ex-smoker.

Then, in about early May 2013, I found to my astonishment that the ever-idiotic EU and a loose alliance of health “advocates” were running a campaign to have e-cigarettes strictly regulated or banned. I couldn’t figure out why, because there certainly wasn’t any evidence to support their wild claims, but there it was; it was happening. And almost immediately I started doing what I could to fight back. Since then I’ve written to MPs and MEPs, retweeted thousands of messages countering the claims of the ANTZ, helped design leaflets and written blog posts. I was thrown off Wikipedia to the sound of (fraudulent) shrieks about me being a paid industry advocate. I’m blogging here now. And the industry is not paying me to do it.

Yes, I’ve taken money to write about e-cigs. I’m a freelance writer; I’ll take money to write about anything. The vast majority of what I do, however, is entirely voluntary. In fact it costs me money. Looking at my daily output figures I can tell when a particularly egregious newspaper story was released; my work rate drops off sharply for a day or two as I switch attention to writing comments, emailing the editor and the journalist responsible or making whatever other response I can come up with. This site is paid for out of my own pocket. If I didn’t do vaping advocacy I would be slightly better off. The same goes for the NotBlowingSmoke campaign that Julia Belluz has her sensible panties in such a twist about; despite the wild allegations being made by acolytes of Stanton Glantz it isn’t financed by industry. In fact it’s paid for and run by a friend of mine, Stefan Didak. Stefan is an ordinary guy with a real job, and in his spare time he’d much rather be wrapping himself around beer and cheeseburgers in some San Francisco bar than fighting a ruthless and well-funded opponent like the California Department of Public Health.

But Stefan believes he has to fight, and I feel the same way. We have to fight for electronic cigarettes because they have saved our lives. The people we usually entrust to look after our wellbeing – the politicians and medical establishment – have either failed us or are actively trying to push us back to smoking. We can’t rely on them, so we have to do it ourselves. The opposition to anti-e-cig laws is not coming from a shadowy industrial cartel tied to the tobacco companies. It is coming from ordinary people like me, like Stefan, like Lorien Jollye and Sarah Jakes . It is coming from real public health experts like Clive Bates. If you’re looking for big funding and a network of powerful connections you’ll need to look at our opponents – Martin McKee, with his six-figure funding from nicotine gum maker Glaxo SmithKline, or notorious grant whore Stanton Glantz. Look at the EU politicians who voted for the vile Tobacco Products Directive – which despite its name is mainly an attack on e-cigs – in the face of the protesting scientists whose work they had distorted. But don’t look at us.

There is no “Big Vaping”. There is only us – vapers. Small people, small businesses, small resources. But we have a big cause, and we’re going to fight for it. And if you attack us – and yes, Julia, I’m looking at you – don’t start whining when we hit back.

This post was originally published on 31 March 2015