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.


  1. Nail on the head - well said

  2. Well said... the aim should be to have as many low risk alternatives as possible and raise awareness of them, and then let people decide what works for them. Personally, I think it is a good thing these companies offer better, less harmful products. What’s the alternative?

    1. Thankyou Clive.

      Yes indeed. The more alternatives there are, the better. No one alternative will ever work for all people wishing to switch from lit tobacco.

      Personally, I applaud companies like PMI embracing the concept of harm reduction. Whatever they may, or may not, have done in the past, the mere fact that they are taking it seriously (and I have no reason to believe otherwise) should be encouraged and supported.

  3. Vic is not someone I wish to vape with. Our communities wonderful advocates however are people who I have great respect and admiration for. Guys keep up the good work and THANK YOU!

  4. The first IQOS rep that calls me gets my business (& swedish match if snus becomes available legal in the UK)

  5. While this article does go into a lot of details, it effectively misses out on the main point, Vic and Empire have both said they have no problem with the IQOS in itself, the problem, which is shared by a lot of other vapers, is the fact that it's being promoted in vape shops, vape media etc etc. The IQOS has it's place, but it's not in vape shops as it's a tobacco product, it would be like trying to sell bacon in a vegan shop, or bringing a bottle of vodka to an AA meeting. It's the completely wrong place to have it. Yes the NNA have done a lot for vapers, it's true but vapers have also done a lot for the NNA, a charity that would not exist if it were not for the donations given to it by vapers to do all that it does, which includes working against the snus ban which dosn't interest most of those vapers. I don't see many snus or HNB users going to put there hands in there pockets to help out. This is where the NNA have made a BIG mistake by alienating a lot of there support base by basically supporting the 'product placement' in an environment where it is neither welcomed nor is it appropriate.

    1. .... and who are you (or anyone else for that matter) to tell a private business what they can/cannot sell (unless you are a shareholder)?

      Businesses exist to make money and provide a livelihood for their owners and employees. What they choose to sell is none of your business. If that business decides that good money is to be made by selling IQOS next to their ecigs/eliquids, then that is their decision to make, not yours.

      Of course, you are perfectly welcome to take your business elsewhere if that happens, but it still doesn't change the fact that it is up to the business owner what they choose to sell, not you.

      Besides, from what I am hearing and seeing, there are a LOT of Vape stores out there seriously considering stocking the IQOS. If it makes those stores a lot of money, you can bet that many other vape stores will soon follow suit.

      I suspect that IQOS is going to be a huge success due to the positive reviews I am seeing not just from vapers, but also from a lot of smokers. If IQOS does take off, then everybody is going to want a slice of the action and your choice of vape stores that do NOT stock the IQOS will become very few and far between

    2. It's a tobacco product and does not belong in a vape shop,been vaping 8 years and not heard of vic or empire ,bulls** long have u been working for phillip morris ,and whats your cut.

    3. I don't normally respond to trolls who hide behind the 'Anonymous' tag, however ...

      The fact that this blog goes all the way back to 2014 (when I first started advocating for ecigs) blows your argument out of the water to start with.

    4. Yes business's exist to make money, they also take advice from important groups and people, so when one of those people say 'adapt or die' what do you think some of those stores are going to do? As for good money, there's a lot of profit in e-liquid, there's not much profit in HEETS (just like there's not much profit in tobacco in general, most newsagents make up there profits selling everything else and use the tobacco as draw to bring people into the store). What happens then vapers avoid vape shops that are selling HEETS? There shops die and those that didn't get a big boost in sales.

      Thankfully most of the vape shops here in northern ireland are owned and run by vapers, none of them are even considering the IQOS so i won't even have to worry about avoiding any shops.

      As for success, the IQOS has been out since 2014, they have been pushing for the past two years, sending rep's to stores only to be rebuffed. I was at expo in october and they had a big stall there in a prime location and for all three days it was mostly empty whereas the other stalls were extremly busy, that includes the friday B2B day where vape shop owners were about. Funny how it's the past 2 months that it's apparently done a complete 180 due to 'advice' and fear mongering from the advocates.

  6. Exactly !

    I’m based in the Philippines and PMI has the ear of the government here. We are now seeing vape gear lumped in with iQOS & other tobacco products to the point that vapers now have to pay tobacco import duty on our products ...

    Big tobacco has just had its worst sales day in decades and they’re not gonna sit idly by and watch vape take a huge chunk of their market place without a fight.

    IQOS Getting in to vape shops and being present at vape events is just the start. Being seen side by side with vape parafanalia sends totally the wrong message to the uneducated smoker that is looking switch from combustible tobacco.

    1. How does it send the wrong message ?

      The IQOS is a harm reduction product just the same as an ecig. It may not be up to 90% safer like the ecig is (we don't have those figures yet), but it is certainly safer.

      Besides, not all smokers like ecigs. I know a LOT of smokers who have all tried ecigs several times and with different kit. It just doesn't work for them. The IQOS might as I already know several smokers who never liked an ecig but love the IQOS.

      As I have said previously, a business exists to make money, whether it is a vape shop or not. If it thinks it can make money by selling the IQOS (which is still THR after all), then that business will sell the IQOS.

  7. As a vaper that has tried IQOS and, surprisingly, liking it, it makes complete sense to have them alongside vapour products; even as far as having them in the same store.

    Let's face it, the wider array of reduced risk products that are available (in one place or the other) can only be a benefit in the long term. Also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, CASAA already noted the potential fallout on this:

    CASAA Dec 2017 - "The vapor retail space will need to grapple with the introduction of IQOS to the market. Although it might seem like an obvious conclusion that vapor retailers would reject any entry by tobacco companies into the electronic nicotine delivery space, HnB products are best sold in a retail environment that already exists in vape shops. Like vapor products, the devices are complicated and require additional instruction and follow up from sales staff. Certainly there are things that sellers of both product types can learn from one another."

    I suspect, given the rapid take up of the product in Japan regardless of the recent fall-off (which can easily be attributed to reaching saturation of a particular demographic) in sales, HnB in all forms will grow quite rapidly in other markets too.

    Let us not forget that smokers themselves aren't taking to ecigs for a variety of reasons, among which include:

    - lack of nicotine hit
    - the products are "cold" (contrast that to the warmth experienced when smoking combustible tobacco)
    - some simply don't like the taste
    - Perceived technological weaknesses - particularly the feel of the drip tips
    - too heavy to hold between the lips (as smokers, we *all* did that)

    There are also a number of smokers that are, to not put too fine a point on it, thoroughly pissed off at the "evangelism" of some vapers and I don't blame them.

  8. The issue is not with the iqos or its place as one of the "harm reduction" alternatives, the issue most vapers have is the fact a tobacco product has no place with vaping. Most of the vaping advocates have tried to push back against the TPD to get vaping out of the tobacco umbrella. Their argument was and still is, vaping has nothing to do with tobacco. If the iqos is being sold by vape shops along side vape products it makes it near impossible for the advocates to this point across.

    1. Tobacco is not the enemy - combusted tobacco is. And the false logic used in some these arguments is pitiful.

  9. I just wonder how many vapers buy or have bought a bottle of eliquid, from there local convenience store ?
    You know the ones, the ones that sell bread milk sweets booze, oh and tobacco.
    Personally I feel that a vape shop is a much better place to sell and buy IQOS, as the staff will be willing to help with the device I doubt that your local tobacconist would be able to do the same.

  10. Freedom of choice! It makes total sense for value shops to sell a range of products, if they want to stay in business. In fact, if they also sold cigarettes they might attract future vapers.
    Live and let live

  11. Given the recent history of certain tobacco companies trying to go all public health over vaping, I can certainly understand any animosity vapers have towards them.

    The fact that they make so-called Harm Reduction products is really neither here nor there for those whose pastime has been threatened by them in the past.

    Personally speaking, I welcome anything that gives me the opportunity for expanding my nicotine portfolio.

    Having said that, I'm finding IQOS to be somewhat lacking in potential reward for the price and effort involved. The amount of visible output and throat hit is rather disappointing and the most flattering comment I've had regarding its bouquet is "stale biscuits".

  12. Just a thought, does IQOS fall under the no smoking ban ,if it does then how can i set it up and show the customer how it operates.

    1. Due to its lack of combustion, IQOS isn't a victim of the smoking Apartheid.