Statistics or Perception? A Brain Dump

Most of my regular readers are aware that from time to time I’ll just put some random thoughts into some kind of (relatively) coherent form. These thoughts are not generally specific to a particular piece of research or media article, they also contain expletives as it is written precisely how I’m thinking it.

Today the Office of National Statistics released a report from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey on adult smoking habits in Great Britain for 2014.

I’m not going to go over that report as Clive has already done so here, but what has come out of this report is a seemingly high number of dual-users – i.e. those that choose to smoke AND vape.

According to the report, and the various press releases:

Some 59% of the current users said they also smoked cigarettes (1.3 million)

Now I don’t know about you, but that seems to be higher than I expected, but that isn’t really the point. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say this, but I’m going to anyway:

I do not care if you smoke, vape, do both or neither. It is your choice

Yes, primarily this blog is all about vaping and more often it’s me picking apart (or trying to) studies that are generally mis-reported. Again, not really the point.

It doesn’t take much to get me thinking, but this post from Action on Choice and this post from Sarah Jakes of the New Nicotine Alliance did. As did this comment from Shannon:

The other day, some family came over for a few minutes to pick up a trailer. One was smoking, and I was a little disappointed for like 0.02seconds and then I was like “why am I mad? It’s her choice, and I know she has a mod at home.” and then I was a little mad at myself for even thinking any of that to begin with.

All valid points from all angles. The pleasure principle, I know that all too well. I enjoyed smoking and had absolutely no intentions of giving up “the evil weed” (as some virulent anti-smokers put it). I tried vaping once to quit, and it was that mentality coupled with the device that attributed to “failing”. I then tried again a few years later and much to my surprise I enjoyed it as much as smoking. So much so that I eventually (after 3 days) made the switch, I still haven’t tested whether or not I can actually smoke now as many vapers find that smoking now makes them feel awful. I have had cigars, but it’s not quite the same really.

So I have, inadvertently, “quit smoking” and there are plenty more like me who have made the switch to vaping without any fuss. We’ve done exactly what the State wanted us to do, but there are still those who continue to smoke and vape. The dual users, those in transition, etc. Some of those may indeed decide to stick with dual-use, some may decide vaping isn’t for them and some may decide that they want to completely switch.

After all, smoking does carry an increased risk of “harms” so if you smoke 20 a day instead of 40 and vape too, then that’s surely a win right?

The question that is rattling around in my head is:

Does it fucking matter?

Frankly, to me no it doesn’t. After all, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. I’m going to digress a little and you’ll understand why.

While out on my lunch break this afternoon (far later than planned of course), I got chatting with a chap from out of town who smoked. Thanks to the media his first comment to me was “those things are bad for ya mate”. Cue the inward sigh, followed by a lengthy conversation about how the science is often mis-represented and how going over the science myself led me to believe that vaping is indeed a viable, safe-enough choice for me.

After that discussion, the chap was inclined to agree, then came the next bombshell. He’d been approached in the past by another vaper who was quite insistent that he switch to vaping, so much so that (and I quote) “he sounded as raving as the quit smoking propaganda I see fucking everywhere”. I was stunned, but he was genuinely appreciative that I had taken the time to explain everything to him. He even mentioned that he might give it a go, but that he enjoyed smoking and would probably only use his e-cig (if he got one) to “get around the ridiculous bans” – whether he switches completely or not is up to him, and I told him just that.

How hard was that on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being Mission Impossible levels), about a 3 I reckon. He’d heard of vaping, was vaguely interested but worried about the supposed “harms”. Took me, maybe 30 minutes of one on one discussion to talk about the misconceptions but not once did I say he had to switch or even try. I gave him simple, easy to understand info and it’s down to him to make the choice. After all, he enjoys smoking. The pleasure principle at work, who am I to tell him that vaping is better or more enjoyable ?

Why should I feel entitled to give that kind of opinion?

“E-cigarettes shouldn’t be seen as a permanent alternative to smoking, and these figures confirm that they don’t work for everyone as a quitting aid.
“However, if you haven’t successfully quit using other methods, including your local smoking cessation services, then it may well be worth trying e-cigarettes, with an aim of eventually quitting them too.”

Apparently, others feel they are entitled to tell you what you should do. To those that insist e-cigs are an “aid for cessation” go, the fuck away. To those that say e-cigs are only for smokers, go the fuck away. To those that say e-cigs are a choice, welcome. You can stay.

As one David Dorn succinctly put:

ECIGS ARE NOT BLOODY MEDICINES. THEY ARE RECREATIONAL

Too bloody right. As a whole, the image of e-cigs is being portrayed as a cessation device only. This is bollocks and needs to change. I enjoyed smoking, I enjoy vaping. I made my choice. Let’s allow everyone else the same basic human right shall we?

  • PatNurse

    Indeed they are recreational and should never be seen as just something to use to quit smoking. But, it has to be said, if the vaping movement is claiming “ecigs save lives” or even “save a billion” lives then what it is saying is that ecigs are a miracle cure for smoking therefore a medicine and therefore open the way for antis to demand they are regulated as such.

    Vapers should be very careful of not falling into using the language of the antis because it will be turned against them.

    As for smoking, dual smoking/vaping, or just vaping. Each to their own but I still resent and I know others do, that we are still banned from the pub, the cafe, and just about everywhere else. Vaping won’t help us unless vapers say they’ll stay in only if smokers can join them or we all go out and fight as one for us all to be in.

    I doubt that’s going to happen. Rather what will happen is that vaping with become normal (and I’m fine with that) but smokers will, as a result, become more stigmatised and never become members of their community again (I’m not OK with that.)

    • Pat,

      Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts, always welcome 🙂

      At some point along the way, someone somewhere said “ecigs saved my life” no idea who, or when that really isn’t the point. To some people they have “saved their life” in whatever context you wish to place that – either “saving” them from being a smoker, or from whatever ailment was affecting them that could be attributed to smoking. Somewhere along the way that got picked up and turned into a motto – I’ll admit I’ve used it myself, but only in a much broader context where those who feel they need “saving” from tobacco.

      It’s a fuzzy area, and because of that I’ve long since stopped using the phrase. Do e-cigs have benefits over tobacco? Of course they do that isn’t in question. Should e-cigs be used instead of tobacco? Frankly, that’s up to the individual.

      Many in PH adopted the “e-cigs as cessation” though I’ve not really viewed them as such (maybe I did once upon a time, but as with anything my opinions can be changed in light of evidence).

      Dual use for me is not a problem, if someone wants to do both I have no problem with it. Like many I do have a problem with incumbent bans that have (and still are) prompting such virulence towards both groups – vapers & smokers alike.

      I bore a lot of the shaming and stigma as a smoker, and sadly considered it “normal” even though I despised anyone that tried to shame me. Now I have a different perspective, albeit in some ways it’s actually very similar when you read comments on media articles related to smoking/vaping, to the point where I will not (knowingly) cast smokers aside to reach any particular goal.

      I’m not the only one, if someone wants to vape/smoke/both/neither it is their choice, who am I to tell them otherwise? That makes me no better than the puritanical nannies that want to force folk to quit.

      • PatNurse

        In the same way, I could say knitting has saved my life because when I want to cut down or quit for a while, I knit and forget to smoke. As a lifelong smoker – childhood to grannyhood, I honestly believe that to quit rather than smoke moderately will kill me so smoking actually does save my life too. Dose makes poison and that is the fundamental truth about tobacco and many other things in life. After all, if I got so into knitting that I forgot to eat as well as smoke then someone’s going to find my skeletal remains in the chair, holding knitting needles with a half finished row on each.

        I know there are vapers who think I hate them, I hate vaping, and I want the world to smoke but that just isn’t true. I just want us both to be treated exactly the same. For the record, when a survey went around work asking what people thought about vaping, and if it should be banned inside, I said no, I even used the propaganda and said people who wanted to quit smoking found ecigs useful and they should be encouraged. Clearly the majority were against it because vaping got banned but I was amazed to be chatting to a smoker in our usual spot in the cold and rain one day when she told me she had spoken against ecigs and was very pleased to see the no vaping signs had gone up next to the no smoking signs.

        She said she didn’t see why people could vape at their desks when she couldn’t smoke, that, in her opinion, vapers were not vaping to quit smoking but vaping as as an alternative to smoking because they enjoyed it. How very dare they!!

        I believe ultimately in freedom of choice and I would never bash your product to win favour over my own nor get vaping banned because I can’t smoke, but clearly the feeling is out there and won’t improve unless the vaper who smokes inside stands up for the smoker who wants to sit inside too and vice versa.

        What I want in this whole battle is very simple. I just want to be left alone to enjoy a legal product in comfort and without humiliation. This is the reason why when I am a pensioner, I aim to bail out of the UK which doesn’t like old people and specifically old people who smoke.

  • castello

    Nicely written Paul. Agree with all of it especially that the 59% are dual users seems high. For cigalike folks I guess the number must be very high. Smoking is so easy and enjoyable. To us it shouldn’t matter but the antz use this as ammo.

    • Sadly true. To me it shouldn’t matter, but when set almost unrealistic targets it’s those in transition (or dual using because they prefer to) that are picked on the most.

  • Mandy Vincent

    Great thoughts and article. A very good friend of mine switched to e-cigs as she had a very bad cold/flu like condition. She has given up real ciggies for over a year now although she had no intention of quitting to start with. She happily rolls some for me as weirdly enough that is what she misses lol. I do dual use since I tried hers.

    • A fair number of exclusive vapers had no intention to give up the smokes, some of course do as that is what they decide to do 🙂