Friday, 20 April 2018

Sticks & Stones

The last week has seen an extraordinary spat break out across social media all because it has been revealed that some vape stores are going to start stocking IQOS. Then a whole new level of stupid was reached by the (over) reaction from certain quarters to the news that the New Nicotine Alliance supports this move.

I have watched dumbfounded as people have declared open season on anyone who dares to show any kind of support for IQOS because (shock & horror) it is made by the tobacco giant PMI. I don’t recall seeing the same reaction to ecigs such as Ploom, Blu, Vype etc – all of which are owned by tobacco companies.

However, for some reason which defies all logic, the organisation which has borne the brunt of the criticism is the New Nicotine Alliance because they have openly supported IQOS.

Many others have also pointed this out, but I will say it again anyway. The hint is in the name. The New NICOTINE Alliance. It means precisely what it says. The NNA supports ALL forms of harm reduction products that contain nicotine. That includes vaping, snus, nicotine patches (yes, really) AND it includes IQOS. If it comes under the umbrella of HARM REDUCTION from lit tobacco, then the NNA will support it.

However, because IQOS is made by Philip Morris International Plc (a tobacco company), some self-righteous vapers have taken it upon themselves to openly abuse and troll the NNA.

I’ll admit that I have never tried the IQOS (I have tried the ecigs made by tobacco companies and found them vile). But some good friends of mine have tried the IQOS and found it to be quite palatable. I also know of a number of smokers (who did not like ecigs) who have tried IQOS and are also very impressed with it. Some of them have actually quit smoking altogether as a result of trying the IQOS.

The evidence-base around how much harm reduction is given by IQOS is still quite sparse. That is to be expected, it is a very new product. But we do already know enough to say with confidence that it is most definitely a harm reduction tool. The evidence-base around ecigs was also very sparse when they first appeared. I have been vaping for almost 8 years and even when I started vaping the evidence-base was sparse. However, right from the start, we always knew that ecigs were a tremendous harm reduction tool. We did not know how much harm reduction we were getting, we just knew they were working because we felt healthier and fitter with no adverse effects. Now of course, more than 10 years into the ecig story, the evidence base has grown exponentially in favour of ecigs – proving what we all knew all along, that ecigs are an effective harm reduction tool.

But it seems that some of the ‘vaping evangelist’ types out there are not prepared to give IQOS a chance because it is made by a tobacco company. The hypocracy is quite stark.

I do not recall anybody criticising the NNA when they announced that they were to challenge the snus ban in the ECJ.. In fact, the general mood was that the NNA had made a fantastic move by deciding to challenge the snus ban. Nobody made a fuss that the NNA was working with Swedish Match in the snus-ban challenge in the ECJ. But Swedish Match are also a tobacco company. Sure, they are not one of the big tobacco companies of the standing of PMI, but a tobacco company they are nonetheless. Lest we forget, snus is a smokeless tobacco product that is placed inside the mouth, and that is what Swedish Match’s main business is. However, Swedish Match also make Cigars. Yes, you read that right, Swedish Match make cigars – which are most definitely NOT a smokeless tobacco product. In fact Swedish Match have quite a large proportion of the American cigar market (just behind the three big players).

So, you can clearly see what I mean by hypocracy. Ecigs that are made by tobacco companies are fine. A heat not burn product made by a tobacco company is not. The NNA supporting a tobacco company (Swedish Match) to overturn a European Union snus ban is fine. The NNA supporting heat not burn product (IQOS) made by a different tobacco company is not.

Confused yet ?

Apparently, two of the biggest critics of the NNA (and of several prominent advocates) have been two Youtube Vape ‘Reviewers’ called ‘Vaping With Vic’ & ‘Empire Vape Co’. You can find an article of their outpourings here.

I have to admit that whilst I have been vaping for almost 8 years, I have never heard of either of these people. There are plenty of vape ‘reviewers’ out there that I have heard of, and even know, but I have never heard of these guys.

However, like a lot of the people they have chosen to criticise, I have been heavily involved in vape advocacy for many, many years. I have no doubt that many of you reading this article will be surprised to hear that because you will never have heard my name spoken in the same breath as the advocates that these reviewers (and their apparent supporters) have been attacking on social media.

However, I can assure you that I have done a LOT of advocating (as most of the other UK advocates will attest to). I have sat in front of a huge number of politicians, scientists, medical personnel, tobacco control people and public health people and argued the case for vaping. I have also been on countless demonstrations, flashmobs and protests against impending laws, legislations and bans. In all that time not ONCE have I ever seen any Youtube vape reviewer get up off their arse and actually advocate.

I can attest to the many HUGE sacrifices that advocates make on the behalf of millions of vapers across the UK, USA and the world. You will not find one advocate who has ever earned even a single penny from their advocacy. Similarly, those same advocates often give up huge amounts of their personal time, often taking time off work and thus sacrificing their holiday entitlements to advocate for ecigs. Advocating for ecigs also puts a great strain on families as an advocate is often called away (usually at short notice) to speak in front of some committee or another, or to help an organisation develop a sensible strategy/policy on vaping. Many advocates have paid a price with their health as a result of the strain that advocacy places upon them. One advocate was even placed in danger as a result of engaging in advocacy (but that is a story that will not be told here).

They all did all that because they believe in what they are doing and because nobody else was prepared to do it. So, before you people (and you know who you are) start shooting your mouths off at such advocates, just think about where the vaping scene would be without those advocates.

The advocates I refer to have been instrumental in stopping the worse parts of the TPD being enacted (none of the Youtube Vape Reviewers would have such channels now if the TPD had been enacted the way the EC originally envisaged because the EC wanted to BAN such channels). Those same advocates are the reason why such bodies as Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians openly support ecigs. Those same advocates are also the reason why UKCTAS, NiCE and many other health organisations have issued such ecig-friendly advice and policies. Those same advocates are the reason why bans on ecigs in public places have not been enacted in many countries around the world and those same advocates are your best ally and hope to stop any future detrimental ecig laws being enacted. Because those advocates have got themselves in to the corridors of power and are best placed to influence the decision-makers and law-makers/legislators from ever implementing bad laws around ecigs and vaping.

Those advocates have sacrificed a LOT so that you don’t have to. Those advocates are the biggest reason why you still have the choice to choose between using an ecig, an IQOS or (hopefully) snus. Think about that before you have a pop with ill-informed and misguided barbs and attacks in their direction. Because if you don’t you might find that the next time some ban on ecigs is proposed those same advocates will have walked away in disgust and the ban will come in unopposed.

If that happens you will have no-one to blame but yourselves.


If you want to use ecigs exclusively, that is your choice. If you want to use IQOS, that is also your choice. Just thank your lucky stars you have that choice. Don’t be like the ANTZ and start spouting ‘my way or the highway’. That’s not how freedom of choice works and, in my opinion, taking that kind of stance makes you no better than the likes of Glantz/Chapman/McKee’s of this world.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Opinions, Opinions

In my last blog-post, I elaborated on the fact that I consider myself a Libertarian. That is, that I believe that everybody has the right choose to live the way they want to live their lives, without hassle, without busybodies like Public Health and Government constantly dictating what we should and should not be doing/consuming. My Libertarian beliefs also extend to freedom of speech. It is the old saying of 'I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it'.

The last few days have seen a furore erupt in Wales over the announcement of the intention to rename the second Severn Crossing as 'The Prince Of Wales' bridge. It spawned a petition and an outcry amongst many Welsh people - even including Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru. As it happens, I also think that they could have chosen a much better name for the bridge (if they even have to rename it at all). However, it is just a bridge and I was not that bothered about what they name it - certainly not enough to sign any petitions.

Now I happen to know that quite a few people who will consider themselves Welsh Nationalists happen to read and follow my thoughts on Twitter and indeed probably read this blog from time to time. I am pretty sure that quite a few of them will not agree with what I am about to say, but I am going to say it anyway (that's Freedom Of Speech).

As most of my Twitter followers will know, I am a Welshman through and through. I can speak Welsh fluently, went to a Welsh medium school, and passionately support all things Welsh - including my defence of the Welsh Language. My three grown-up kids are also fluent in Welsh (in fact none of them spoke English at all until they were taught it in school at around 7 years old).  Yes, I know my surname is not a Welsh surname (which means somewhere along my family tree somebody 'English' must have appeared), but I have managed to trace my family tree back 200 years so far and have not yet found an English ancestor (though I have found some Scottish ancestry but that will keep for another time). So there ya go. I am Welsh and have lived in Wales my entire life, bringing my kids up as fluent Welsh speakers with very Welsh names.

Over the weekend, the flames were fanned somewhat with an article that Rod Liddle wrote for The Sunday Times. I will not put a link in because it is behind a paywall and if you don't have a subscription then you will not be able to read it anyway. However, even a cursory glance around Twitter will soon find you the content that seems to have caused so much offence. Here's a screenshot of it

Do I agree with what Rod said ?  No, absolutely not
Do I like what Rod said ? No, absolutely not

But here is the thing. What he said is not actually unusual. I spend most of my time working in England and what Rod Liddle said is bloody tame to a lot of the stuff I have heard, whether to my face, behind my back or just overheard while out and about. It happens. Deal with it. It's called Freedom Of Speech.

I have a lot of English (and Scottish, Irish) followers and friends on Twitter. A quick check back through my Twitter timeline will find all sorts of exchanges between me and those followers which are close to, or far worse than what Rod Liddle wrote above. It's called banter. They use the usual Welsh stereotypes to try and wind me up and I bite back with comments about their heritage/nationality/stereotypes. As one of my more colourful (Scottish) followers would say, it's all bollocks. I've heard it all before. In work, socially and on Social Media. Such banter is commonly heard all across these Isles. It just needs a sense of humour to cope with it as most of those who say that to me do not actually mean it, it is just banter.

I am not going to defend the content of what Rod said. I do not know the guy. I know OF him because I have read quite a lot of the articles he has written through the years AND I have seen quite a few of the speeches he has given at various functions. What I have observed of him is that he has a very dry sense of humour that some people just do not get or understand. I can say that because I also have a very dry sense of humour that is often misunderstood. Now I have no idea whether he actually meant the things he said in the article, or if he was trying to be humourous. He is well-known for coming out with controversial opinons, views and speeches throughout his career, so this is not exactly new ground. However, true Freedom Of Speech means that he should be allowed to say such things. You may not like what he says, you may not agree with what he says. You may even take offence to what he said (as many have), and that is your right. It is also your right that you do not have to listen to him or read what he says. That is your choice. What he wrote is his choice. THAT is what Freedom Of Speech is all about.

Should The Sunday Times have printed what he wrote ?

Well, The Sunday Times is a privately-owned newspaper so such decisions are entirely at the disgression of the Editor. But any worthwile newspaper will have a belief in Freedom Of Speech otherwise they would not be worth reading or they would be totally under the control of the Government (and we all know where that leads).

Some people have suggested that had that article substituted the words Wales or Welsh with any other racial or religious minority then the The Sunday Times would not have printed it as they knew they would face a storm of controversy. I have my thoughts on that but will let you , the reader, ponder on what you think.

Today I have seen calls for such articles to be legislated against. I have seen other people want to report Rod Liddle for race-hate. Still more want the Police to be knocking on his door.

Really ?  In the current climate where violent-crime, including knife and gun crime, is going through the roof, do we really need more Coppers taken off the front line to deal with somebody expressing an opinion in a newspaper that may well have been intended as a (bad) joke ?

We have already seen people locked up for things they have allegedly said on Twitter or Farcebook. The so-called 'progressives' would love to see yet more legislation enacted to stop articles such as what Rod wrote ever seeing the light of day. One more step closer to a Police State in my opinion. If legislation was enacted to stop what Rod Liddle did, then where is it going to end ?

Ever been  to a soccer match ?  The things the opposing fans call each other in chants and songs would see entire crowds locked up for hate-crime every time a match is played in that case. We are getting ever closer to 'thought-crime'.

1984 was a book of fiction. It is NOT an instruction manual no matter how hard the so-called progressives wish it was.

I have never met Rod Liddle. Maybe I will one day. If that ever happens, I will find out if he actually believes what he wrote in that article or not. Either way, if he used words like that to me, he would find it returned in kind. It is called Banter. If he is offended by it, then I will find he is not the paragon of Libertarianism that I thought he was. However, if he is amused by it, then I will know he can take it as well as give it out.

Until then ...

I did not agree with what you wrote in that article Rod Liddle. But I will defend your right to say it.

Free speech depends on such attitudes to life and society can only learn by hearing opposing views.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Splinter Cells

I have been holding my tongue over the last few days, though the temptation to lash out and say a few choice words has actually been overwhelming. I have watched as vapers have attacked other vapers, watched smoking advocates attack harm reduction advocates and vice-versa, then watched everyone attacking everyone over the new sugar tax. Now today, I have seen some people going ballistic over seeing an advert for Heat Not Burn at a Vape convention.

It seems that everybody is getting hot under the collar with everyone else over the past few days merely for a slight difference of opinion. It has to stop. At the very time when the Tobacco Control squealing has become ever louder and more and more desperate (because they can see they are losing the battle and have run out of arguments), it seems that everyone else is determined to self-destruct and engage in an orgy of name-calling, faux-outrage or silly (misplaced ?) words.

I am, and have been for some considerable time, a vaping advocate. I've done my bit online and I have also done the rounds of meeting with health officials and many, many politicians - all in the name of protecting my right to vape. I like to think I have been fairly successful in my efforts.

However, I am also proudly Libertarian. That means that I believe that everybody can enjoy the freedom to speak as they like (free speech) and live life the way they want to live their lives. Free from persecution and free from the pronouncements of interfering busybodies like Tobacco Control and/or Public Health.

If you enjoy smoking and want to continue smoking, that's fine by me. Enjoy your smoke with my blessing. I will not chastise you for your choice and neither will I shun you for your choice. Hell, if I like you, I will even sit with you and chat while you enjoy your choice.

The same goes for those who choose to enjoy harm reduction, whatever their reasons for doing so.

If snus is your choice, then go for it. I've tried it once, but didn't like it. But if it is helping you switch away from smoking, then it is working for you and I applaud you for it.

Neither have I tried Heat Not Burn. Some good friends of mine have tried it and they actually liked it. The jury is still out as to how much harm reduction you actually get from HnB, but that it is still harm reduction is without doubt. 

But it is made by Big Tobacco they cry!!

So what ?   Some ecigs are made by Big Tobacco too, but I don't see any fuss being made over that. If you don't want to use a product made by Big Tobacco, then don't. That is your right. But do not chastise other people who actually LIKE Big Tobacco's products (we were all Big Tobacco customers at one time). It is STILL harm reduction. Why should Big Tobacco not embrace harm reduction if they so choose ?   They are a business. Businesses exist to make money. If they choose to make money by embracing harm reduction, then that is their choice and I applaud them for it.

Same goes for the Sugar Tax. If a company has reduced the sugar in their product and consequently their product now tastes like shit-on-a-stick (like Ribena, Irn-Bru and Lucozade), then you are free to NOT purchase their products any more. There are plenty of companies out there that have chosen to ignore the sugar tax - Coca Cola and Pepsi are the two biggest names to stick two fingers up at the Nannies. So you have plenty of choices where you can go to get your sugar rush.

Don't be like the permanently offended masses you find on Twitter. Those offendatrons will always find something to bitch and moan about. Be smart. Be an advocate of freedom of choice.

I'll be honest. I actually thought all vapers and smokers WERE advocates of freedom of choice. I was wrong on that. Events of the past few days have proved that to me.

I will not go there. I am a Libertarian. I believe in freedom of choice. Live your life the way you want to live it. That is fine by me. I may not like your choice, but I will fight with every fibre in my body to ensure that you have that choice.

******Rant ends*******