Wednesday, 21 December 2016

A Magazine Feature

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to be contacted by Vapouround magazine and asked if I would write an article for them as part of their 'Diary Of A Vaper' series. This was based on information that I have related in previous blogs on this site.

You can read the actual magazine article on pages 84-85 here however, be warned that the feature also contains some pretty horrific pictures of yours truly !!

Due to space restrictions, a lot of what I wrote did not make it into the published article. So I thought I would publish the FULL UNEDITED text of what I wrote in here as my latest blog entry. 

At this time of the year, it is often the case that articles appear in various sources (such as in James Dunworth's excellent blog, featuring a plethora of familiar names and faces) detailing how the 'Vaping Experts' predict events over the next 12 months in the world of Vaping will unfold. As I am NOT one of those 'Vaping Experts', I have never been asked how I see the future of Vaping, but it did form part of what I wrote for Vapouround magazine.

So, for those that are interested, I present the full unedited text of the article I wrote for Vapouround. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Diary Of A Vaper

1. When did you start vaping and what was your greatest motivation to start vaping?

I bought and started using my first eCigarette on 6th June 2011 (I always remember the date as it also happens to be the anniversary of D-Day from WWII). I honestly can’t remember what type of eCigarette it was (though it is perfectly possible it still lives in a long forgotten drawer somewhere in my home office), but most were pretty rudimentary in those days when compared to what we have now. A few months previous to that I had found myself in hospital due to a Myocardial Infarction (basically, two of the main arteries feeding into my heart had become blocked, starving my heart of blood and oxygen). In hospital I had an operation to clear the blockages and was told in no uncertain terms that my problems had been caused by my previous 30 years smoking habit, which I should quit. I managed to stay off the cigarettes for a couple of weeks following the operation, but gradually found myself having the odd cigarette here and there, and soon found myself fully back in the habit.

Around the same time, I started to see articles about this new thing called eCigarettes on the internet. Curious about them, and because I wanted to be free of the smoking habit that had put me in hospital, I started researching them and decided to give them a go. On 6th June 2011, I had my first eCigarette in my hands. I smoked my last 5 tobacco cigarettes on that morning, then switched to using the eCigarette. I have not had (or wanted) a tobacco cigarette since.

In the ensuing 5 years, I have watched the Vaping phenomenon taking off. The technology has moved on in leaps and bounds and I have tried to keep up with it. The numbers of visible vapers has skyrocketed. When I first started Vaping, people would come up to me asking what on earth it was. They didn’t understand that the device could be used in smoke-free places because it didn’t produce smoke. I lost count of the amount of times I had to explain to people what it was or how it worked (and why it is NOT smoking). Many smokers used to dismiss it saying it will never catch on. It was certainly exceedingly rare to encounter another Vaper. Now, I see them everywhere and being used by people from all walks of life (quite a few of whom I can claim to have persuaded to make the switch).

As to my health problems, I still have some issues around that, but not caused by vaping. I have regular checkups at both my local GP Surgery and at the Cardiac Centre in the local hospital. My current health issue is a leaking valve near to my heart and I do have to undergo an operation to either replace or repair it (they have not decided which yet). However, both my GP and the Cardiac Consultant are aware that I vape and both are fully supportive as they recognise the considerably reduced risk of vaping when compared to smoking. During my last checkup, I was wired up and on a treadmill. The Nurse in charge of the test commented that my lung capacity showed that I was clearly a non-smoker. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are well within acceptable limits. So I am seeing, and feeling, clear benefits to my health.

2.  What do you enjoy most about vaping?

Quite apart from the obvious health benefits that I have already discussed, I actually rather enjoy the whole vaping experience far more than I ever enjoyed cigarettes. For one, there are the enormous varieties of flavours to enjoy. I’ve tried quite a few flavours over the years, some were very good, some I found absolutely disgusting. But I have to admit that I invariably come back to the fruit flavours (though there are even some fruit flavours I cannot abide – water melon ...bleh !!). The two flavours I vape the most are, ironically, quite similar in that I like Blackcurrant or Blueberry. I tend to make my own ejuices because I can mix them to my own personal preference. It is actually rare for me to purchase pre-made juices. But that is the beauty of vaping. No two vapers have the same taste. What I find enjoyable, another person may hate, and vice-versa. It is the sheer variety of flavours that, I feel, has helped to make Vaping such a successful phenomena. 

The other thing I enjoy about Vaping is the community. Because of the actions of certain members of the public health and political communities, there is very much a sense of ‘us and them’ and it has engendered a camaraderie among vapers that is not seen in many other communities. Whenever I get together with a group of Vapers, whether at the pub or a Vape event, you witness that great sense of community and friendship as we all have a common ground and sense of enjoyment.

3. What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about vaping?

The misconceptions of vaping are very much the product of the Public Health zealots. These are the people with the ‘quit or die’ attitude to anything they disapprove of. To them, the thought that anyone might be enjoying something they disapprove of is anathema. They simply want to see a bland joyless world where everybody conforms to their ideals. Because they have the ears of the Politicians and the mass media, they can spew out this disinformation in a scattergun approach knowing that it will be picked up and run with. The mass media in particular love to see scare stories as it generates ‘click-bait’ and this hysteria sticks and resonates with the general public. These Public Health zealots know that and it simply encourages them to spread more and more disinformation and lies. We all know who the main culprits are.

The problem for these zealots is the concept of social media. Whereas before they could spread lies and disinformation without any come back, now the public can research and fight back. This is what really infuriates the zealots. Vapers can and do fight back – often directly. The zealots simply cannot abide the fact that the vaping community has the temerity to pass information around and fight back.

Most vapers will be aware of how close Welsh Labour got to banning eCigarettes from enclosed Public Spaces earlier this year. But it was defeated due to heavy intervention and fighting back by the more vocal of us Vapers in Wales. In conjunction with the (now defunct) Save eCigs campaign, a group of us spent two years getting ourselves in front of as many Welsh politicians as possible. We spent countless hours travelling around the country to meet with those politicians, armed with all the science to back up our assertions that vaping should be left alone, that it was not something to be feared, but embraced. And it paid off – big time.

The reason that the ecigarette supporting politicians in the Welsh Assembly were so well informed was due to all the science and research that we had been feeding to them. It was extremely uplifting the see our political supporters standing up in the Assembly and fighting against the proposed ban using the science, facts and figures that we had provided to them. Yes, it was a close run thing and we did get an element of luck to win that battle. But win it we did. I like to think that the gusto and stubbornness we showed, the backs-to-the-wall no surrender attitude we displayed, was a major factor why Welsh Labour have shied away from attempting the reintroduce the vaping ban in the new Public Health Wales Bill that is about to start its way through the Assembly.

Fortunately, elsewhere in the UK, the authorities have been a bit more sensible. With both Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians coming out in support of eCigarettes, the immediate danger to vaping has now been averted. It is just a shame that it came about too late to stop the TPD (more on that later).

But the battle is not just about the UK. Over the past 2 years I have been privileged to be one of the (currently) 7 Trustees of the New Nicotine Alliance. The NNA is currently embarked on a number of campaigns, including a constant dialogue with both the Department of Health and Public Health England. Through those connections the NNA has been able to have significant input into various stop smoking services (the contributions of fellow NNA Trustees - Lorien Jollye and Sarah Jakes - in the recent UKNCSCT guidance on eCigarettes is a perfect example of this). The NNA has provided input into many campaigns and consultations all around the world – from Australia and New Zealand, through various countries in Europe and all the way over to the other side of the Atlantic. The NNA performs a whole host of activities to promote the benefits of eCigarettes, many of which the general public may be unaware of. It is through the NNA that vaping stands its best chance of being freed from the shackles of onerous regulation.

4. Where do you see the vaping industry in the future?

This is an interesting question and, in my opinion, very much depends on what happens post-Brexit here in the UK. 

If left to evolve naturally, vaping can go a long way in the next 5 years. You only have to look at the innovations and great strides forward that have already been achieved over the last 5 years. Unfortunately, the attitude of the Governments (and Public Health) of a great many countries is going to greatly restrict vaping. Already the FDA Regulations in the USA has clamped down very hard on the American Vape industry. We are starting to see a number of vendors closing down over there. Further, some States are also attempting to introduce punitive taxes on vaping.

In the EU, the TPD has taken hold. Some EU countries have yet to implement it, some are implementing it to the letter of the law, whilst others are going far beyond that (e.g. in Belgium, Austria, Germany and Poland). In Asia, many countries have already introduced a blanket ban on vaping altogether. Australia has always had the most draconian restrictions on vaping, with New Zealand not very far behind.

However, in my view there are still some rays of light to be found. Post-Brexit, there are rumours coming out of the Government of a whole raft of EU Legislation they would like to get rid of. Amazingly, the TPD has been touted as one of those pieces of legislation. If the UK dumps the TPD, then the UK could become the poster child for vaping across the world. The UK is probably the most vaper-friendly country in the world right now. Recent news has shown that smoking rates in the UK have plummeted over the past 3 years and ecigarettes have been given a huge amount of credit for this happening. If the TPD were to be repealed in the UK, then those smoking rates will have every chance of tumbling at the same (or even faster) rate over the next three years. That would give other countries still under the yoke of the TPD the chance to free vaping, using the UK as their example. The USA could do likewise.

The removal of the TPD from UK Law could conceivably place the UK at the centre of innovation in vaping over the next 5 years, quite possibly seeing the number of vape companies increasing or even relocating here. There is much at stake and I shall be watching (and campaigning) strongly for the UK Government to repeal the TPD.

In New Zealand, there is currently a consultation going through on the lifting of restrictions to vaping. Even in Australia there are moves afoot to try and legalise the sale of nicotine-containing ecigarettes.

All is not lost yet. Far from it. There is much, much more to come in the story of vaping

5. What mod do you use? And what’s your current and/or favourite e-liquid juice?

I have loads of mods and tanks and constantly change between them all the time. The ones I am currently using are the Wismec Reuleaux RX200 with an Uwell Crown on top, A Wismec Reuleaux RX2/3 with a Smok TFV8 on the top, and a Sigelei 75w with a Kanger Subtank Mega on top.

6. Any advice to potential vapers or smokers out there who are struggling to quit smoking?

Quitting smoking does not have be an onerous or difficult decision any more. The easiest and best way to quit smoking is by switching to eCigarettes. They taste better, are more enjoyable, and can be customised to your taste. All you need to do is find the right nic strength and flavour for you. Everyone is different. Go to a vape store and they will assist you to find the right setup. The more atuned your setup to your own personal tastes, the greater your chances of switching completely to vaping.

If you have tried vaping before and found it was not right for you, try again. The technology has changed and advanced a lot in recent years. Vaping is becoming more and more pleasurable with each new innovation and advance, and you will save yourself a lot of money in comparison to smoking.

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