Sunday, 16 February 2020

Petitions, Petitions

A recent blog entry on Simon Clark’s Taking Liberties website brought to my attention the poor response that a European Union petition entitled ‘Vaping Is Not Tobacco’, which Simon reported that has apparently attracted less then 50,000 signatures across the whole European Union (which was, until recently, made up of 28 countries), with just 391 UK signatures.

I am not surprised for a number of reasons.

Firstly, because the UK is leaving the European Union, most UK-based vapers would probably view it as not applicable in the UK.

Secondly, this petition was obviously not widely known amongst the Vaping community. I was completely unaware of it, despite the fact that I closely monitor what is happening with legislation to do with Vaping and Smoking. So quite where the existence of this publication was distributed is a mystery to me.

Thirdly, the Vaping community has splintered into a number of competing groups. The result is that is very hard to coordinate petitions of this type as different groups seem reluctant to support petitions started by another group.

As many of you will know, I was involved in vaping advocacy as far back as 2012. This was a time when vaping was still in its infancy and yet to break into the mainstream the way it has in recent years. However, it is also the time that vaping was first starting to draw the attention of Political and Health Authorities and when the real fight to save vaping really began.

Despite the fact that we vapers were few and far between in those days, we maintained a siege mentality and would rush to head off any threat to vaping through protests and petitions. Some successful, some less so. The point was, we were not prepared to simply roll over and let the less informed authorities have their way.

It was also the time when I found myself as the figurehead for both a campaign and a petition – the ‘Save eCigs’ campaign to stop the then Health Minister for Wales – Mark Drakeford – from steamrollering a public vaping ban as a subset of the larger Public Health Wales Bill.

It was through this campaign that I learned just how hard it is to coordinate a petition and get people to sign it. I did everything within my power to get the petition as widely known around Wales as possible. From (almost coercing) various Vape vendors to prominently display my flyers, endlessly promoting the petition on social media, keeping all the ecig forums that I could find up to date with the progress of the petition and appearing on vape-related Youtube channels like Vapour Trails TV.

Despite everything I did and tried, that petition only ever got a tiny percentage of Welsh Vapers to sign it. I was utterly soul-destroying.

The one upside of the campaign (and petition) was that it opened doors to my being to get my face in front of the AM’s in the Welsh Assembly to put our side of the story to them. It enabled me to get the true facts and figures in front of these AM’s, instead of them only hearing the biased and ill-informed propaganda that was being peddled by Drakeford.

Admittedly, very few Labour politicians gave me the time of day. But many of the opposition AM’s from the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats (they had a lot more AM’s in those days) and Plaid Cymru were open to speaking to me and my colleagues and many of them were very supportive as a result.

Ultimately, our campaign to save vaping from being banned in public in Wales was successful. We managed to defeat the bill (albeit by a very narrow margin) and Welsh vapers are still free to vape in public spaces to this very day as a result.

However, something else I learned from fronting that campaign was that critics can be found in every walk of life, You would not believe the number of times I would be told by ‘armchair warriors’ that I am doing it all wrong, or that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Whilst I used to get a lot of supportive emails, and messages through social media, I would also get a lot of bile and criticism. Like most people, I am only human and so this type of bile and criticism used to get me down. Whilst I may not ever have shown it outwardly, inwardly I would often question why on earth I bothered.

In the end, I simply had enough of the criticism and bile and chose to walk away from it all. I was not alone. For those Vapers who were around way back in 2012, just ask yourself how many of the advocates with whom you became familiar are still around to be seen or heard ?

THIS, is the reason why the Vaping Is Not Tobacco petition failed. People simply got fed up of the criticism and back-stabbing to be found in the vaping community and walked away.

This is one of the many reasons why I have the utmost awe & respect for the NNA. There are people involved in the NNA who have been there from the start and are still there fighting for vapers across the world. These are the people who were made of stronger stuff than I and who could take the back-stabbing and criticism and, in some cases, even thrived on it. But please, do not take these people for granted. The influential advocates from yesteryear have turned their backs and walked away. The last thing the vaping community needs is for these good folk in the NNA to decide they have had enough and walk away.

There are still many battles to be fought to keep Vaping, and no doubt there will many more to come. That’s why we need them.

Don’t be an armchair critic. Support the NNA.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Science - The Neverending Search For The Truth

Science is a constant. The whole point of science is that it is meant to prove that something is either right, or it is wrong. There is no in-between level. Science is not concerned with such things. In science, something is either correct, or it is not. In essence, science is the search for the truth.

The truth does not care about funding, cost, sponsorship, business interests, needs, ideology, beliefs or wants. Science therefore, does not care about any of those human constructs with which we are familiar.

Of course, when somebody does not properly understand the science, then mistakes can/will be made. In such cases, that person will rarely find the truth. He/She will simply find what they believe to be the truth. But that is not failure of science. It is a failure of the human - who did not properly understand the science (or is speaking from a position of ignorance).

We hear a great deal about scientific theory, and many people believe that scientific theory is the truth, especially when they hear it from what they perceive to be a reputable scientist. But they are incorrect. Scientific theory is exactly what the words say, it is a theory. Until somebody scientifically proves that theory through a thorough experiment or application, then it remains an unproven theory. That is, it is not the truth. It has not been proven to be the truth.

Accordingly, anybody who calls himself a scientist but who does not seek the truth is not a scientist at all. In fact, it would be fair to describe such a person as a fantasist or propagandist. A true scientist will only ever concern himself with the truth. The whole truth. Nothing but the truth.

So why am I talking about this ?

It is due to the myriad of newspaper articles that have appeared over the Christmas period on a whole range of things. There has been climate warning scare stories, scare stories on foods, on fizzy drinks, on alcohol. You name it, there have been claims and counter claims from different sections of science. So who is right ?

Let’s take climate warning. Nary a day passes without some warning about climate change/global warming. I read those stories (and even read the so-called scientific papers that inspired those stories). In the vast majority of cases that I have read, we are not talking about any scientific fact. No, in most cases we are talking about scientific THEORY.

As I mentioned above, a theory is NOT the truth. It cannot be the truth as it has not been proven to be the truth. In some case it is almost impossible to prove a theory because the necessary ingredients/environments do not exist or are hard to come by. So what happens is that a scientist publishes a new theory and then releases it into the wild, and the newspapers (looking for their next big story) publish it as fact. Newspapers, as we know, are more interested in readership (or clicks, if online), than they are in the truth. But because some scientists has theorised about something (such as climate change), then the newspapers publish it as fact. They do so because they know people will read it and believe it because it came from a scientist (often, though not always, backed up by the person having Doctor or Professor in front of their name).

This is how people with agendas influence the public to buy in to their agenda. They push out what they know is an unproven theory to the mass media, and then let the mass-media do all the work for them. Therefore, an unproven theory magically becomes scientific fact overnight.

The truly alarming part though is how many so-called scientists are actually influenced in the same way as the public. As scientists, they ‘should’ be trained to be sceptical about anything presented in such a way until they see the proof. But they do not. They simply see what they want to see because that is what they believe. Their own bias prevents the truth from being found. It is not the truth, it is a belief or conviction on the part of that person that blinds them from the truth, from the actual science. Unfortunately, such people invariably have the ear of the politicians and when that unproven theory is placed in the ears of politicians by somebody (as before, usually with Doctor or Professor be fore their name), then that theory is the truth to those politicians and we the public end up with legislation based on theory rather than the truth. As we all know, that brings (often tragic) unintended consequences.

I have watched open-mouthed at this very process in action over in the USA during the last few weeks. The American Vaping Advocates have been reacting and tweeting with alarm at everything that has transpired since the CDC declared that Vaping was causing lung disease, due to the CDC’s (initial) inability to search for the truth. The truth was that all the lung problems being experienced in the USA was not due to Vaping, but rather it was to do with the illicit THC cartridges that are easily obtainable on the black market in the USA. Nothing whatsoever to do with vaping.

But what happened was that the usual suspects (I will not call them scientists as they have been proven time and time again to be anything but scientists) suddenly began gleefully shouting about all the scientific THEORIES that were abounding to support their ideologies that vaping was bad.

As mentioned above, a theory is NOT the truth. Until it is proven, it remains a theory and therefore NOT the truth.

In fairness to the CDC, they did belatedly prove the above mentioned THEORIES as being incorrect and published a statement that confirmed that all the lung issues being reported was due to illicit THC cartridges being bought on the black market. In essence, they disproved the theories and therefore found the truth – that there is no proven danger from Vaping. That, my friends, is science. Unfortunately, when they did finally publish their findings, it was far too little and way too late. The horse had already well and truly bolted.

Amazingly though, there are STILL so-called scientists pushing out the proven-false theory as truth, and it is the usual suspects that are doing so. I do not need to name them, you already know who they are. Accordingly, the politicians (the Senators, Councillors, Legislators – whatever you Americans call them) have been swayed by these pseudo-scientists (propagandists) and the result is that many States are STILL trying to introduce legislation banning vaping (or at least flavours) and our American Vaping Advocates are having a very hard time of it fighting these attempts at bans.

In the UK, we are fortunate now in that most of the prominent bodies are fully supportive of Vaping, because they chose to examine the proven science. They chose to look for the truth and based their advice on what they found. Of course, we do still have many propagandists in the UK too (unfortunately, some of these also have Doctor or Professor before their names too), but they are few and far between. All you have to remember is that the ‘Bobblegoms’ of this world are NOT scientists, they are propagandists. They do not understand the science behind vaping and therefore cannot ever arrive at the scientific truth.

Science – the unending search for the truth, not the Dollar !!