Them or Us

Them or Us

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being able to attend the e-cigarette summit at the Royal Society. It was an eye-opening experience, not least of which the number of speakers there exalting the positives of vaping, but it wasn’t that that was the most eye-opening. There were some that were conspicuous by their absence, and no I’m not talking about the opponents of e-cigarettes.

At some point during the day, two blog posts were released (here and here) which prompted the Spock eyebrow from me.

I had the pleasure of meeting Simon Clark, albeit briefly, at Vapefest earlier this year and his impromptu talk only confirmed what I already believed. Smokers and vapers need to work together.

I’ll re-iterate a comment that Simon made on the day:

However, having rubbed shoulders with some of the leading e-cig advocates at Vapefest, I’m more convinced than ever that what smokers, vapers and tolerant non-smokers have in common is far greater than our differences.

What we, as vapers and mostly former smokers, have in common with smokers and tolerant non-smokers is far greater than our differences. Let that sink in a little then read the various posts on the e-cigarette summit.

I am, put bluntly, a simple man. I’m quite content with letting people make their own damn choices. I do not judge. If people want to smoke then that’s fine, if people want to give up smoking (in whichever way they choose), again that is absolutely fine. If folk don’t want to give up smoking, I have no problem with that either.

So it came as somewhat of a surprise, that when reading Simon’s blog and the subsequent comments to see vapers damned as being grossly offensive. I personally would have thoroughly enjoyed hearing Simon Clark speak at the Summit, if only to give his views - some of which I agree with, some I don’t, but that’s fine by me. Any and all comments made by Simon or anyone else gets added to my thinking and is used to form my own opinions.

Sadly, a tweet from Simon (“The #ecigsummit resembles yet another public health convention – and, boy, do we need another one of those”), for me at least did seem to be correct. It was pretty much those in public health and tobacco control joining forces to extol the virtues of vaping. To an extent, I don’t have any real issue with that. Conferences, summits, meetings and so forth happen and they happen with increasing regularity. Does this mean I wholeheartedly trust or believe what is said? Fuck no. That’s the 75% rule in play.

Simon, in his post, mentions the following:

A couple of months ago, in a spirit of constructive criticism, I suggested a panel featuring an ex-smoking vaper, a dual user, a heat not burn practitioner, and a committed smoker. It would be interesting, I thought, to get a range of consumer perspectives.

I would pay good money to see that. Seriously. There is this notion that all smokers, dual users and any other user that doesn’t “fit” with ideals are to be excluded. To my mind that is inherently wrong. However, context is also important. If the Summit was not exclusively on e-cigarettes but on tobacco control in a more general way, I would expect (read demand) that all parties be represented. Sadly, as we all know if the Tobacco Industry were going to speak you can pretty much guarantee that some, or most, in tobacco control would openly refuse to attend.

I’m no fan of the tobacco industry, but I’ll happily listen to what they have to say. Same for tobacco control and public health.

What came out of the e-cigarette summit was positive. For vapers only. As I stated in my review of the day, I went as a member of Vapers In Power, which to an extent limits what I can say as I’m representing an organisation that has its foundations in vaping and vaping only. The same can be said for those that attended as members of the New Nicotine Alliance. As individuals, not representing an organisation we do have our own beliefs and opinions on matters related to smoking and vaping, most of them are similar when it comes to smoking.

I’ve described myself, when talking about when I smoked, as someone who society looked down on. Someone who smelled, was disgusting, was an all-round bad person because of the choice I made to smoke. The fact that anti-smoking organisations, like ASH are “on-side” with vaping makes me decidedly uncomfortable, I had enough of ASH and their propaganda when I was smoking, I definitely do not want to be used as a weapon against smokers just because I now use an e-cigarette instead of quitting altogether.

As a vaper, I feel that there is a bloody big scorpion on my back just waiting to strike.

I wrote the following in my post on Vapefest:

Folks, smokers are not our enemy here, if anything they could very well be one of our biggest allies. You may not like the act of smoking, but guess what, vaping by itself mimics the act of smoking. Stop adding to the stigma that already surrounds smokers, you were one once and it wasn’t fun was it? Many smokers I know through social media actually hate the vaping community and will do nothing for us, simply because we don’t offer anything but scorn to them. It’s wrong, and it needs to stop. We need to work together.

Many vapers are openly supportive of smokers and do as much as they can to preserve the freedom of choice. I myself have responded to the various consultations on smoking ban extensions as an opponent of them. Back when the public place smoking ban was enacted I was silent, because I didn’t know how to respond. Back then I was one of “them”. A sheeple.

Now I’m one of “Us”, I abhor what has been done to smokers. I fucking well lived through it. My primary goal, as a vaper is to preserve choice. The choice for smokers to switch if they wish. The choice for vapers to use their devices. The choice for smokers to carry on smoking if they wish.

I’ll work with smokers and their representative groups, if they’ll work with me.