Thoughts, ramblings and shtuff Part 4

Poxy Proxy

Ever since the media kicked up a small storm over a 14-year-old having his vapouriser confiscated I’ve been thinking about this area. Of course, my own opinions are likely to differ from a lot of folks so feel free to take them or leave them.

As I mentioned at the start of the previous post on this:

I agree wholeheartedly that proxy-purchase should be allowed for existing smoking youth only. That is a given. If your kid smokes, I have no issue with an adult buying them a vapouriser. I’m more ambivalent towards proxy purchase if the kid in question doesn’t smoke but again, no real problem with it.

I also mentioned that the whole proxy purchase area is full of nuances, there are a whole host of questions with no real “right or wrong” answers.

Let’s be 110% clear here. I do not endorse the sale of vapour products to Under 18s as a general rule, but as we all know and have experienced kids try stuff. It’s part of growing up. You can forget the “susceptibility” bullcrap being touted in the US, it’s a less than flimsy assumption that kids try stuff because of other influences. Of course, movies, music, familial, and societal influences are always in effect. Of course, those in the public health racket believe that because you listen to music by XYZ artist, or watch a film with *gasp* smoking in it, you’re more likely to smoke.

Bullshit.

It’s like saying drinking water leads to drinking vodka. Or that watching the car chase scenes in James Bond makes folk more susceptible to dangerous driving. Life just doesn’t work that way. Sure everything exerts its influence on us but there’s more to our decision-making than external influences. Bottom line there is, if a kid wants to try smoking or vaping then they’ll find a way and there isn’t a damn thing those ivory tower residents can do to stop it.

One of the comments on a previous post asked the question “if vaping is safeR why do many hesitate in letting kids try it”; I think the thing here is that as someone who wants to keep vaping as an option for everyone, and because vaping is under such close scrutiny, the idea of letting kids try it does make me hesitate. It makes me hesitate because it’s the exact argument that the ANTZ use. The Children™. I would of course argue that kids shouldn’t need to vape, but then they also don’t need to smoke.

The reality is, I have absolutely no issue with kids vaping, simply because in all probability they would have smoked instead. I asked Shannon the exact same question:

Let’s face it: if you tell a teenager not to do something, they’re just going to want to do it more. It’s rebellion, and it’s human nature. — Shannon

Implementing an age restriction only really has an effect on those that abide by the rules and never ever put a teeny tiny toe across the line. But we all know that kids these days are not like that, at all. Despite the current legislation of restricted sales to U18’s for cigarettes, a large proportion still smoke. In the US, they had this brilliant wacky idea that by raising the age of sale again it would have an impact on under-age smoking and youth uptake.

Bullshit.

Once again, legislators are doing everything they can without really doing anything. Big surprise. Which is why the new legislation in the UK to “restrict sales of e-cigarettes to under 18’s” is also going to fall desperately short of its intended target.

Even now, I’m getting e-mails from vendors I use regularly detailing the changes they are having to make in order to comply with this legislation.

We must now perform age related checks on customers prior to dispatching orders. These are the same checks as carried out for other age related categories such as for alcohol sales and online gambling and, happily, services already exist that allow us to automatically verify age with the minimum of disruption to our ordering system.

Trouble is, what is to stop Little Johnny giving his dads name and details on an internet order? The internet is a wonderful place and was in its infancy when I was but a lad (ah the sweet dulcet tones of a 14,400 modem dialing my ISP still haunts me to this day), it’s far more established now and kids are (as a general rule) far more savvy on the ol t’interwebz than us older folks. Kids can (and will) get around these supposed road-blocks fairly readily.

A teenager that begins smoking is a tragedy. Why should we allow that tragedy to turn into a lifelong addiction to cigarettes?

Why indeed? True it’s usually pretty difficult to buy smokes over the counter if you’re a youngling, but it can be done and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked to buy for schoolkids (which I’ve always refused), but they’ll always find a way. Enter the proxy purchase dilemma.

As of October 1st in the UK it is now illegal:

  • for retailers to sell electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) or e-liquids to someone under 18
  • for adults to buy (or try to buy) tobacco products or e-cigarettes for someone under 18
  • to smoke in private vehicles that are carrying someone under 18

Forget the fact that it is already illegal to sell tobacco to someone under 18 yet there’s still a lot of teen smokers in the UK, I highly doubt that this will have much of an impact because it isn’t (like the current U18 tobacco law) well enforced. The one that bothers me the most is the second one; colloquially known as “proxy purchase”.

It is currently illegal in the UK for an adult to buy age restricted goods (alcohol, most over the counter meds, tobacco, porn and so forth) for someone under the age of 18. Yet, if said kid is a smoker then they have access to over the counter NRT from the age of 12, not to mention the irony of NRT being given out in schools.

Surely there must be some kind of irony there? As with the recent media on the 14-year-old and his confiscated mod, NRT is the option “preferred” by the majority in public health, but what if it doesn’t work? Is the child meant to keep trying NRT, failing and relapsing constantly until they come of age to be able to legally buy a vapouriser?

There’s a lot of focus by our policy makers across the globe in trying to prevent youth uptake of smoking and vaping, but there isn’t a lot of thought going into how to get these kids away from smoking other than the dismal route of GP -> Pharmacy -> NRT -> Fail -> Smoke -> Repeat.

The parent holds the ultimate authority. If a parent wants to purchase an ecig for their teen who already smokes, they should be applauded, never chastised.

— Shannon

A sentiment I thoroughly agree with, though I would tentatively suggest that the “preferred” methods should (technically) be tried first, if only to satisfy the ivory tower denizens that it has at least been attempted. However, I disagree with that suggestion on one simple fact. NRT is a dismal failure for the majority of those that use it. Exposing a developing mind to that method, with its ridiculously low success rates is a recipe for disaster.

Let’s face it, how many vapers tried NRT, failed dismally and went back to smoking time and time again? A majority of us I suspect, each time it feels worse. Imagine that impact just once on a developing mind. Couple that with some of the propaganda that floats around about how much “better” ex-smokers are health-wise or financially it can be downright traumatic for a developing youth.

Yet the option of actual harm reduction with vapour products doesn’t seem to cross the minds of these folks. A product that is consumer driven, substantially less harmful, but gives similar sensations to combustible tobacco. Surely that can only be a good thing?

Do I think that under 18 smokers should be allowed to have vapourisers bought for them?

Without question, of course I do.

There are of course a few grey areas that need to be addressed. Areas such as, how to prove to the vendor/authorities that the youth being bought for is actually a smoker? In that case, the burden of proof must rest with the parent(s). After all, parents hold the ultimate authority over their child, not the state (generally). Maybe the answer, as much as I’m not a fan of it, is a GP referral type system. The question then is, who is referring? Is it the GP, Stop Smoking Services, Schools? Or can it be as simple as parental consent?

Knowing how nit-picky our governments are, they are going to want some way of tracking these poor souls who use this method, most likely as “evidence” somewhere down the line; maybe as *gasp* proof that vaping works as a means of cessation? Nah of course not.

The other question in this “referral” type system is, would there be a ‘deadline’ date for stopping altogether? If GPs or SSS are involved, most likely which to my mind defeats the object of making the switch. But then again, in this situation it is more of a “forced” switch which would take away from the free-choice aspect of switching.

It is a weird situation, as adults we like that we have the freedom to choose whether or not we use a vapouriser. We chose to smoke and then chose to vape. Some of us may choose to stop vaping altogether. I don’t begrudge anyone making a choice. Should U18 smokers have the same level of freedom?

Again, I’m in two minds here. In some countries voting age is 16, others it’s 18. Enlistment begins at 13 for some, with front line service at 18. The “definition” of “youth” (according to the UN) is “those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years”; some definitions are little broader (up to 34 in some cases). Where then do legislators draw the “line” saying that this group can while another group can’t?

Bottom line there, if you can decide the political fate of the country you can decide if you want to smoke or vape. After all, isn’t one of the primary missions of “public health” groups to educate about potential risks? At 16 you can decide the course of the national government, but you can’t decide what is risky ?

Of course, the public health groups want to decide what we can or can’t do our entire lives, but none of the policies now in place make any kind of allowances for underage smokers. If your child smokes, it’s NRT or tobacco I’m afraid, unless you want to break the “law”.

Dismal choices really. When will the policy makers learn that the world they try to rule is not as clear-cut as they like to think it is?

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  • Jessica Harding

    I’m so glad you wrote this -and I agree with all that you say. If policy makers really were thinking of the children this is not what they would have come up with. Yes-giving GPs the power to prescribe ecigs is probably the only way now to give smoking children access to vaping. These regulations are so out of proportion to the harm which ecigs do (or don’t do!) and there’s no evidence that non smoking children become habitual vapers. Also, cigarettes and e-cigs are completely different products – cigarettes are disposable and much more widespread, e-cigs are much harder to come by and a lot more expensive. Despite the ban on under 18’s buying cigarettes no one doubts that we will still have significant numbers of children smoking -so much easier to sneak a fag out of your mum’s bag than an ego! Result – cigarettes are more available to children than the (circa) 95% safer alternative. I can (kind of) see why this legislation had to happen – but I think it’s wrong – thank you for discussing it here.

    • It’s been bugging me ever since that kid had his mod confiscated. There should be room to allow current smoking Under 18’s access to vapour products; the big question is obvious – how?

      Besides, the current legislation on under 18 tobacco sales hasn’t really stopped youth uptake because of poor enforcement (I got asked for ID more post-18 than I did pre-18), all it’s really done is slow the uptake, which is all this “new” legislation will do.

  • Excellent write up and well needed. Thanks