Can’t see the people for the forest. part 2


“The people power evolved organically and those interests happen to be in a position to run with it – or co-opt it.”

Yeah, it’s a conundrum isn’t it? If advocacy is to succeed it needs not just money, organisation and hard work, it needs friends. Vaping advocates see vaping as part of the harm reduction cornucopia, the part that currently has the most public visibility and the least baggage in the tobacco sphere. It isn’t unreasonable to assume that bringing as much public health support as possible on board is a good idea. As long as they don’t see our cause as a threat we should be able to work together.

Some of the actions of ‘our allies’ in public health over the last few days casts doubt on their commitment to harm reduction which in turn makes me wonder if they aren’t just ‘keeping their friends close and enemies closer still’ Trust has been lost and trust is vital to achieving anything.

Some of this may be our own fault, in assuming that what we want is the same as what they want. We want to see harm reduction not just tolerated as an option but actively pursued and a lot of that involves stuff that’s anathema to tobacco control and concerning to the rest of public health. Not including vaping in public use bans and not imposing prohibition taxes is vital if tobacco harm reduction is to be attractive to it’s target audience. Not including vaping in tobacco control measures is seen as weakening the tobacco control argument of not one puff. It’s seen as a concern by public health who fear if harm reduction as a policy fails all the ground gained will be lost.

A lot of the problem stems from vapings intimate relationship with smoking, guilt by association and the old if it looks like a duck rhetorical trick. But vaping isn’t smoking, it’s not smoking. We are now stuck with the association and the not so subtle “another form of smoking” wording and have to deal with that. We have to continue to compare vaping against smoking and admit it’s an evil by using the lesser of two evils as justification.
An uncomfortable position to work from.

So what does what we want look like when we get it? The good old days of the 1950’s when smoking was cheap and socially acceptable but with an LED ?
Or like smoking in 2016, socially unacceptable and expensive?

The decisions made now will decide which it is, so we better decide which vision we want or how much of those visions we will tolerate. Every public use ban moves us further into the position of smoking (possibly into actual smoking) Every tax imposition adds to that perception of vaping being a bad thing.
Whatever about our particular desires, the more tobacco control measures are applied to vaping the fewer reasons for smokers to switch. Every compromise to tobacco control is a gift to tobacco industry, specifically the cigarette industry.

That’s what we don’t want and again it leaves us in the fire brigade mode of advocacy. We also need to articulate things we can add that will help reduce the health toll of lit tobacco. We need vaping sold as a viable alternative to smoking. Ask yourself, what did you want as a smoker? To be left alone? To get off the cigarettes? To save money? Vaping provided all 3. We should be shouting this from the rooftops. We should have shops selling e-cigarettes to vapers and smokers, telling them about the health benefits, the cost saving and the enjoyment of vaping. Instead we are by law stopped from mentioning the health benefits, by law prevented from advertising and as we have seen from the decision to abandon Vapefest Ireland this year prevented from telling people about the fun!

Can we salvage anything from this mess? Can we do it without involving some aspects of the public health movement even if they are working against us?


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