Finding our Way

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading a Q&A between my friend Fergus Mason and David Goerlitz. Having seen the documentary film A Billion Lives, and having heard David on Smoke Free Radio with Dimitris last year, there wasn’t much in that interview that I wasn’t already aware of.

Still, it was worth a read if only to remind myself of just how the tobacco control industry is more about control then it is about reducing smoking, and it can quite easily be summed up in one line:

Nobody took tobacco seriously. Nobody did anything about it, the government didn’t put them out of business.

Of course, back when David Goerlitz was the Winston Man, there wasn’t a huge public health lobby trying to control every miniscule aspect of our lives. How things change.

Now we have sock puppet charities such as ASH beating their war drums on smoking, though in reality they aren’t so much anti-smoking as they are anti-smoker. Every policy and law passed in the UK to do with smoking – such as the public place bans, the ridiculous notion of banning smoking in cars, beaches (which are of course fully welcomed), display bans, and of course the absolutely bonkers plain packaging debacle – are all aimed at “reducing smoking prevalence” to a set percentage of the population by 2020 (or 2025 in some campaigns).

Such arbitrary figures are, quite frankly laughable especially when prevalent harm reduction products such as Swedish Snus are banned in the UK and vaping, the new kid on the block, is set to be regulated as stringently as combustible tobacco.

There’s the likes of Cancer Research UK doing all kinds of “fund-raising” events so that they can “beat cancer sooner” – wear pink, do a fun run and all that kind of stuff. All well and good, I have nothing against that kind of thing – just stop cramming your bloody adverts down my throat.

Vaping has, by and large, been classified purely as a “cessation” product, and as I’ve mentioned before it’s far more than that. Yes, it can be a method to quit smoking and jolly good show to those who decide that is the method they want to use. Same applies to those who want to quit smoking via more traditional methods such as patches, gums, lozenges and so forth. I’ll even make room for hypnosis (as laughable as that may be from my perspective).

But here’s the thing, those of us that do vape – and there’s more than a few of us now – are all (with some exceptions) former smokers. Some of us didn’t particularly want to quit smoking, some found vaping purely by accident and found it to be far more enjoyable.

Then of course there’s the public health lobby and tobacco control who insist that we can’t enjoy ourselves. Well tough, I enjoy vaping and that’s that. Stop framing the debate purely around cessation, it only serves to piss people off.

A fact that doesn’t get missed by Goerlitz:

I’d quit, but I was still cheating sometimes, because I liked to smoke. I enjoyed it.

Now tell me, who hasn’t “cheated” when they tried to quit smoking at one time or another? For some unknown reason, public health can’t get their collective heads out of their collective arses to understand this. Sure, for some they smoke because that is what they have always done – these are the ones most likely (to varying degrees) to want a “way out” – whether they do is up to them.

But there’s this bombshell:

I think, in a lot of ways, the vaping community has lost its way. Maybe it’s got too big, too fast. Everybody’s thinking about the latest gear, the next generation of gear, and it’s becoming a subculture.

Has the community lost its way? Possibly it has, this time last year there were products being released almost weekly with an emphasis to a particular style of vaping. New stores, both brick & mortar and on-line, were popping up all over the place presenting a wide variety of hardware and flavours. Public health is framing the debate solely around cessation, and tobacco control are not the best of allies.

I couldn’t put my finger on where it all went awry, perhaps it was meant to go this way, but there’s a definite tendency for stores to offer hardware aimed more at the experienced vaper. While that is changing, it isn’t changing fast enough. I know of one store (among six in a 25 mile radius of where I live) that offers both starter, intermediate and “advanced” hardware coupled with a good, but not dazzling array of flavours.

Not every smoker wants a DNA200 with a TFV8, they want something that they can just pick up and use, but there’s a trap there. If it is a simplistic device there’s a good chance that public health will beat the “cessation, cessation, cessation” mantra into said smokers’ head, which is the result of decades of social engineering. The debate needs to be re-framed, preferably without the interference from tobacco control and public health, but it is far too late for that now.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not an average vaper, simply because there is no such thing. What I find enjoyable, others may not but that is entirely up to them. I vape because I enjoy it, just like I enjoyed smoking it really is that simple. Do I wish other smokers “saw the light” and made the switch? Of course I do, but I sure as hell won’t be forcing them to switch. June 11th 2014 is when I made the switch, that makes it over two years of vaping – two years of being smoke-free. I’m not ashamed of that fact, I’m fucking proud of it. I chose to use an alternative to smoking. Additionally, no-one should be ashamed of their choice, be it to smoke, vape, quit via NRT or any other method. Is vaping the key to that success where all my other attempts, half-hearted as they were, failed? Possibly it is one part of it. Possibly, deep down I really did actually want to quit, or maybe I was just lucky. Who knows?

All I do know is, I want to keep a valid alternative that simulates smoking, that is as pleasurable (for me) as smoking available. On the flip side, I’ve also started applauding those that still smoke, after all it is their choice and who am I to begrudge them that choice? If I do that, I’m no better than the public health zealots that have made celebrating being “smoke-free” such a socially accepted norm.

Unfortunately some ex-smoking vapers are like missionaries determined to preach the gospel and convert unbelievers.

It’s not enough that they’ve successfully quit smoking. They want everyone else to quit too and, boy, is that off-putting.

Ah Simon (quoted from his blog). While I partially agree that sometimes members of the community can be a bit zealous, but isn’t it warranted? After all they made a choice to quit and to do so by switching to vaping. Isn’t that something to celebrate? The same zealotry can be found in the various “success stories” that litter the various stop smoking services social media feeds and websites. They quit another way and are just as “evangelical” as vapers, so that must be as off-putting right? We all know at least one of “those” former smokers who gave up their way and are now rabid anti-smokers.

Why don’t we just celebrate those people making their own damn choices?

(image credit librakv/shutterstock.com)

  • Simon T

    Good article Paul. I agree with all of it.
    Just one small criticism if I may …

    Throughout the article you are quoting the Goerlitz interview. However, the last part is a snip from Simon Clarke’s blog – Taking Liberties. I know that because I read both articles. However, others may not have read both articles and not realise your last quote is from a different source unless you tell them so.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    • A valid point Simon, a quick amendment to the post to fix that (minor) oversight 🙂

  • Roberto S

    There are interesting similarities between E-cigs and pipes (the usual ones and the water pipes or hookas). As opposed to cigarettes, pipes are not disposable, they are old fashioned artisanal objects (or “smoking devises”) that require care and maintenance. The same holds for E-cigs, except that the artisan work is now techno style. I switched from cigarettes to pipe and cigar smoking without inhalation 25 years ago. My overall respiratory condition improved a lot.

    The more I know on vaping and vapers’ motivations, the more I think that passing from cigarettes to vaping is a similar move to the one I did then. You trade one pleasure for another one that is (in general) less exacting on your health. Such transitions are not suitable for every smoker, some will prefer sticking with the usual “devise”. It is a matter of personal choice and nobody should be pressed or patronized on this. I am now a “dual user” enjoying both smoking and vaping. I tend to vape only outside my home because it is very practical: no stuff is burned, no matches nor ashtrays are required and the vapor and smell dissipates very fast. However, at home I never miss my daily pipe or cigar. I am happy with this routine and no fear mongering BS from tobacco haters or “Public Health” nutcases will make me change. For decades I was polite to neurotic anti-smokers when smoking outdoors, now I just tell them to F..Off.

  • jmshigham

    Those devices look positively dangerous, like something from a torture chamber. 🙂

    • Paul Barnes

      Aye, modern day thumb-screws 😉